No, 32 Extra. TRUTH SEEKER LIBRARY. July, 1893.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
By JOHM B. RB-MSBVRG.
u I am not a Christian." LINCOLN.
THE TRUTH SEEKER COMPANY,
28 LAFAYETTE PLACE.
r II r V. (Price, 50 cents.) S3 PER YEAR.
Entered at the Post Office in New York, March 4, '91, as second-class matter.
* > l
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
By JOHN B. RBMSBVRG.
" I am not a Christian." LINCOLN.
THE TRUTH SEEKER COMPANY,
28 LAFAYETTE PLACE.
THE TRUTH SEEKER COMPANY.
" * . i.
TO THE FRIENDS
WHO HAVE HAD THE COURAGE TO AFFIRM
THE TRUE AND DENY THE FALSE;
TO THE FRIENDS
WHO WILL HAVE THE HONESTY TO REJECT
THE FALSE AND ACCEPT THE TRUE,
THIS VOLUME IS INSCRIBED
BY THE AUTHOR.
ALMOST immediately after the remains of America's
roost illustrious son were laid to rest at Springfield,
one of his biographers put forward the claim that he
was a devout believer in Christianity. The claim
was promptly denied by the dead statesman's friends,
but only to be renewed again, and again denied. And
thus for a quarter of a century the question of Abra-
ham Lincoln's religious belief has been tossed like a
battledoor from side to side.
As a result of this controversy, thousands have
become interested in a subject that otherwise might
have excited but little interest. This is the writer's
apology for collecting the testimony of more than
one hundred witnesses, and devoting more than three
hundred pages to the question, "Was Lincoln a
About few other men has so much been written as
about Abraham Lincoln ; while no other American's
life has engaged the pens of so many biographers.
A thousand volumes record his name and refer to
his deeds. In a hundred of these he is the central
figure. Nearly a score of elaborate biographies of
him have been written. As many more books per-
taining wholly to his life, his martyrdom, and his
character have been published. Of the many works
on Lincoln which the writer has consulted in the
preparation of this volume, the following deserve to
be mentioned : Nicolay and Hay's " Life of Lincoln,"
Herndon and Weik's " Life of Lincoln," Lamon's
"Life of Lincoln," Holland's "Life of Lincoln,"
Arnold's " Life of Lincoln," Raymond's " Life of
Lincoln," Stoddard's "Life of Lincoln," Barrett's
" Life of Lincoln," " Every-Day Life of Lincoln,"
Arnold's " Lincoln and Slavery," Carpenter's " Six
Months at the White House with Lincoln," " Remi-
niscences of Lincoln," "Anecdotes of Lincoln,"
" Lincolniana," "The President's Words," "The
Martyr's Monument," " Tribute of the Nations to
Lincoln," "Lincoln Memorial " and "Lincoln Me-
The testimony concerning Lincoln's religious
belief presented in this volume has been derived
chiefly from three sources. 1. A part of it has been
gathered from the works above named. In a single
volume is published for the first time matter which
heretofore was only to be found scattered through
numerous volumes, some of them inaccessible to
the general reader. 2. A considerable portion of it
has been gleaned from newspapers and periodicals
containing statements brought out by this contro-
versy, many of which would otherwise soon be lost
or forgotten. 3. A very large share of it has been
obtained by the writer from personal friends of Lin-
coln ; and when we realize how rapidly those who
lived and moved with him are passing away that
erelong none of them will remain to testify the im-
portance of this evidence can hardly be overestimated.
The writer believes that he has fully established
the negative of the proposition that forms the title
of his book. He does not expect to silence the
claims of the affirmative ; but he has furnished an
arsenal of facts whereby these claims may be ex-
posed and refuted as often as made.
This effort to prove -that Lincoln was not a Chris-
tian will be condemned by many as an attempt to
fasten a stain upon this great man's character. But
the demonstration and perpetuation of this fact will
only add to his greatness. It will show that he
was in advance of his generation. The fame of
Abraham Lincoln belongs not to this age alone, but
will endure for all time. The popular faith is tran-
sient and must perish. It is unpopular now to reject
Christianity, but the day is fast approaching when
to accept its dogmas will oe considered an evidence
of human weakness. To perpetuate the claim that
Lincoln was a Christian is to perpetuate an idea
that in a future age will lessen the luster of his
It will be urged by some that the intent and pur-
pose of this work is solely to promote the interests
of Free thought. But it is not. The writer advo-
cates no cause that requires the prestige of a great
name to make it respectable. The cause that re-
quires the indorsement of the great to sustain it is
not worthy to survive. He has prosecuted this in-
vestigation, not in the interest of any belief or
creed, but in the interest of truth ; and truth is
certainly as high as any creed, even if that creed
be true. In proving Lincoln a disbeliever he does
not presume to have proved Christianity false, nor
Freethought true ; but he has shown that some
Christians are not honest, and that an honest man
may be a Freethinker.
ATCHISON, KAN., April, 1893.
Dr. J. Gr. Holland Hon. Newton Bateman Rev. J. A. Reed Rev.
James Smith, -D.D. N. W. Edwards Thomas Lewis Noah Brooks
Rev. Byron Sunderland, D.D. Rev. Dr. Miner Rev. Dr. Gurley
Hon. I. N. Arnold F. B. Carpenter Isaac Hawley Rev. Mr. Willets
A Pious Nurse Western Christian Advocate An Illinois
Clergyman Rev. J. H. Barrows, D.D. Rev. Francis Vinton, D.D.
REVIEW OF CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY HOLLAND AND BATE-
Character of Holland's " Life of Lincoln " The Bateman Interview
Inconsistency and untruthfulness of its statements Holland's Subse-
quent Modification and Final Abandonment of his original Claims.
REVIEW OF CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY REED AND HIS WIT-
Reed Smith Edwards Lewis Brooks Statements of Edwards,
Smith, and Brooks Compared Sunderland Miner Gurley Failure of
Reed to Establish his Claims.
REVIEW OF CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY ARNOLD AND OTHER
Arnold's " Life of Lincoln " Claims Concerning Lincoln's Religious
Belief Address to Negroes of Baltimore Carpenter Hawley Willets
Pious Nurse Western Christian Advocate Illinois Clergyman
Barrows Vinton Simpson.
TESTIMONY OF HON. WILLIAM H. HERNDON PUBLISHED
Herndon's Association with Lincoln Character Writings Com-
petency as a Witness The Abbott Letter Contribution to the Liberal
Age Article in the Truth Seeker Herndon's " Life of Lincoln."
TESTIMONY OF HON. WILLIAM H. HERNDON UNPUBLISHED
Extracts from Herndon's Letters The Books Lincoln Read His
Philosophy His Infidelity Refutation of Christian Claims Attempts
to Invalidate Herndon's Testimony Reed's Calumnies Vindication.
TESTIMONY OF COL. WARD H. LAMON.
Lamon's "Life of Lincoln "- -Lincoln's Early Skepticism His Inves-
tigations at New Salem His Book on Infidelity His Religious Opin-
ions Remain Unchanged Holland's Condemnation of Lamon's Work
Holland's and Larnon's Works Compared.
TESTIMONY OF LAMON's WITNESSES HON. J. T. STUART
AND COL. J. H. MATHENY.
Testimony of Hon. John T. Stuart Testimony of Col. James H. Ma-
theny Stuart's Disclaimer Matheny's Disclaimer Examination and
Authorship of Disclaimers, Including the Edwards and Lewis Letters.
TESTIMONY OF LAMON's WITNESSES CONCLUDED.
Dr. C. H. Ray Wm. H. Hannah, Esq. James W. Keys Hon.
Jesse W. Fell Col. John G. Nicolay Hon. David Davis Mrs. Mary
Lincoln Injustice to Mrs. Lincoln Answer to Reed's Pretended Ref-
utation of the Testimony of Lamon's Witnesses.
TES1IMONY OF LINCOLN'S RELATIVES AND INTIMATE AS-
Mrs. Sarah Lincoln Dennis F. Hanks Mrs. Matilda Moore John
Hall Wm. McXeely Mr. Lynan James B. Spaulding Ezra String-
ham Dr. G. H Ambrose Wm. G. Green Joshua F. Speed John
Decamp Green Caruthers J. H. Chenery Squire Perkins W. Per-
kins Hon. Joseph Gillespie James Gorley Dr. Wm. Jayne Hon.
Jesse K. Dubois Judge Stephen T. Logan Hon. Leonard Swett
TESTIMONY OF FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES OF LINCOLN
WHO KNEW HIM IN ILLINOIS.
Hon. W. H. T. Wakefleld Hon. D. W. Wilder Dr. B. F. Gardner
Hon. J. K. Vandermark A. Jeffrey Dr. Arch E. McNeal Charles
McGrew Edward Butler Joseph Stafford Judge A. D. Norton
J. L. Morrell Mahlon Ross L. Wilson H. K. Magie Hon. James
Tuttle Col. F. S. Rutherford Judge Robert Leachraan Hon. Orin B.
Gould M. S. Gowin Col. R. G. Ingersoll Leonard W. Volk Joseph
Jefferson Hon. E. B. Washburn Hon. E. M. Haines.
TESTIMONY OP FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES OF LINCOLN
WHO KNEW HIM IN WASHINGTON.
Hon. Geo. W. Julian Hon. John B. Alley Hon. Hugh McCul-
loch Donn Piatt Hon. Schuyler Colfax Hon. Geo. S. Boutwell
Hon. Wm. D. Kelly E. H. Wood Dr. J. J. Thompson Rev. James
Shrigley Hon. John Covode Jas. E. Murdock Hon. M. B. Field
Harriet Beecher Stowe Hon. J. P. Usher Hon. S. P. Chase
Frederick Douglas Mr. Defrees Hon. Wm. H. Seward Judge Aaron
Goodrich Nicolay and Hay's i; Life of Lincoln " Warren Chase
Hon. A. J. G rover Judge James M. Nelson.
OTHER TESTIMONY AND OPINIONS.
New York World Boston Globe Chicago Herald Manford's
Magazine Herald and Review Chambers's Encyclopedia
Encyclopedia Britannica People's Library of Information The
World's Sages Every-Day Life of Lincoln Hon. Jesse W. Weik
Chas. W. French - Cyrus O. Poole A Citizen of Springfield Henry
Walker Wm. Bissett Frederick Heath Rev. Edward Eggleston
Rev Robert Collyer Allen Thorndike Rice Robert C. Adams
Theodore Stanton-Geo. M. McCrie Gen. M. M. Trumbull Rev.
David Swing, D.D. Rev. J. Lloyd Jones Rev. John W. Chadwick.
EVIDENCE GATHERED FROM LINCOLN'S LETTERS,
SPEECHES, AND CONVERSATIONS.
The Bible and Christianity Chr'st's Divinity Future Rewards and
Punishments Freedom of Mind Fatalism Providence Lines in'
Copy-book Parker Paine Opposition of Church Clerical Officious-
ness Rebuked Irreverent Jokes Profanity Temperance Reform In-
dorsement of Lord Bolingbroke's Writings Golden Rule.
^RECAPITULATION AND CONCLUSION.
Character of Christian Testimony Summary of Evidence Adduced
in Proof of Lincoln's Unbelief ' ouglas an Unbeliever Theodore
Parker's Theology Fallacy of Claims Respecting Lincoln's Reputed
Conversion His Invocations of Deity His Alleged Regard for the
Sabbath The Church and Hypocrisy Lincoln's Religion.
WAS Abraham Lincoln a Christian? Many confi-
dently believe and earnestly contend that he was ;
others as confidently believe and as earnestly con-
tend that he was not.
Before attempting to answer this question, let us
define what constitutes a Christian. A Christian is
one who, in common with the adherents of nearly
all the religions of mankind, believes, 1. In the ex-
istence of a God ; 2. In the immortality of the soul.
As distinguished from the adherents of other relig-
ions, he believes, 1. That the Bible is a revelation
from God to man; 2. That Jesus Christ was the
miraculously begotten son of God. He also believes
in various other doctrines peculiar to Christianity,
the chief of which are, 1. The fall of man ; 2. The
Those who in nominally Christian countries reject
the dogmas of Christianity are denominated Infi-
dels, Freethinkers, Liberals, Rationalists, unbeliev-
ers, disbelievers, skeptics, etc. These Infidels, or
Freethinkers, represent various phases of belief,
among which are, 1, Deists, who affirm the existence
of a God and the immortality of the soul ; 2. Atheists,
who deny the existence of a God, and, generally, the
soul's immortality ; 3. Agnostics, who neither affirm
nor deny these doctrines.
The following are the religious views Lincoln is
said to have held as presented by those who affirm
that he was a Christian :
1. He believed in the existence of a God, and ac-
cepted the Christian conception of this Being.
2. He believed in the immortality of the soul, and
in the Christian doctrine of the resurrection.
3. He believed that the Bible is a revelation from
God the only revealed will of God.
4. He believed in the divinity of Christ believed
that Christ is God.
5. He believed in the efficacy of prayer, and was
accustomed to pray himself.
6. He believed in the doctrine of experimental re-
ligion, and had experienced a change of heart.
7. Although he never united with any church, he
was contemplating such a step at the time of his as-
8. The church with which he would have united,
we are led to infer, was the Presbyterian.
The following is a statement of the theological
opinions of Lincoln as understood by those who deny
that he was a Christian :
1. In regard to a Supreme Being he entertained at
times Agnostic and even Atheistic opinions. During
the later years of his life, however, he professed a
sort of Deistic belief, but he did not accept the
Christian or anthropomorphic conception of a
2. So far as the doctrine of immortality is con-
cerned, he was an Agnostic.
3. He did not believe in the Christian doctrine of
the inspiration of the Scriptures. He believed that
Burns and Paine were as much inspired as David
4. He did not believe in the doctrine of Christ's
divinity. He affirmed that Jesus was either the son
of Joseph and Mary, or the illegitimate son of Mary.
5. He did not believe in the doctrine of a special
6. He believed in the theory of Evolution, so far
as this theory had been developed in his time.
7. He did not believe in miracles and special
providences. He believed that all things are gov-
erned by immutable laws, and that miracles and
special providences, in the evangelical sense of these
terms, are impossible.
8. He rejected the doctrine of total, or inherent
9. He repudiated the doctrine of vicarious atone-
10. He condemned the doctrine of forgiveness for
11. He opposed the doctrine of future rewards and
12. He denied the doctrine of the freedom of the
13. He did not believe in the efficacy of prayer as
understood by orthodox Christians.
14 He indorsed, for the most part, the criticisms
of Thomas Paine on the Bible and Christianity, and
accepted, to a great extent, the theological and hu-
manitarian views of Theodore Parker.
15. He wrote a book (which was suppressed)
against the Bible and Christianity.
16. His connection with public affairs prevented
him from giving prominence to his religious opin-
ions during the later years of his life, but his earlier
views concerning the unsoundness of the Christian
system of religion never underwent any material
change, and he died, as he had lived, an unbeliever,
r * * *
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: WAS HE
Dr. J. G. Holland Hon. Newton Bateinan - Rev. J. A. Reed Rev.
James Smith. D.D. N. W. Edwards Thomas Lewis Noah Brooks
Rev. Byron Sunderland, D.D. Rev. Dr. Miner Rev. Dr. Gurley
Hon. I. N. Arnold F. B. Carpenter -Isaac Hawley Rev. Mr. Willets
A Pious Nurse -Western Christian Advocate An II inois
Clergyman Rev. J. H. Burrows. D D. Rev, Francis Yinton, D.D.
IN confirmation of the claim that Lincoln was a
Christian, the following evidence has been adduced :
DR. J. G. HOLLAND.
President Lincoln died on the 15th of April, 1865.
In the same year, the " Life of Abraham Lincoln,"
written by Dr. J. G. Holland, appeared. In the
fields of poetry and fiction, and as a magazine writer,
Dr. Holland had achieved- an enviable reputation.
His "Life of Lincoln' was written in his usually
20 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
entertaining style and secured a wide circulation.
He affirmed that Lincoln was a Christian, and by
means of this work, and through Scribner's Magazine,
of which he was for many years the editor, contrib-
uted more than any other person to render a belief
in this claim popular. Referring to Lincoln's admin-
istration, Dr. Holland says :
" The power of a true-hearted Christian man, in
perfect sympathy with a true-hearted Christian peo-
ple, was Mr. Lincoln's power. Open on one side of
his nature to all descending influences from him to
whom he prayed, and open on the other to all as-
cending influences from the people whom he served,
he aimed simply to do his duty to God and man.
Acting rightly he acted greatly. While he took
care of deeds fashioned by a purely ideal standard,
God took care of results. Moderate, frank, truthful,
gentle, forgiving, loving, just, Mr. Lincoln will al-
ways be remembered as eminently a Christian Presi-
dent ; and the almost immeasurably great results
which he had the privilege of achieving were due to
the fact that he was a Christian President " (Life of
Lincoln, p. 542).
HON. NEWTON BATEMAN.
Dr. Holland's claim rests chiefly upon a confession
which Lincoln is said to have made to Newton
Bateman in 1860. During the Presidential campaign
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 21
Lincoln occupied the Executive Chamber at the
State House. Mr. Bateman was Superintendent of
Public Instruction at the time, had his office in the
same building, and was frequently in Lincoln's room.
The conversation in which Lincoln is alleged to have
expressed a belief in Christianity is thus related in
Holland's " Life of Lincoln :"
" On one of these occasions Mr. Lincoln took up a
book containing a careful canvass of the city of
Springfield in which he lived, showing the candidate
for whom each citizen had declared it his intention to
vote in the approaching election. Mr. Lincoln's
friends had, doubtless at his own request, placed
the result of the canvass in his hands. This was
toward the close of October, and only a few days be-
fore the election. Calling Mr. Bateman to a seat at
his side, having previously locked all the doors, he
said : ' Let us look over this book. I wish particu-
larly to see how the ministers of Springfield are going
to vote.' The leaves were turned, one by one, and
as the names were examined Mr. Lincoln frequently
asked if this one and that were not a minister, or an
elder, or the member of such or such a church, and
sadly expressed his surprise on receiving an affirma-
tive answer. In that manner they went through the
book, and then he closed it and sat silently and for
some minutes regarding a memorandum in pencil
which lay before him. At length he turned to Mr.
22 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
Bateman, with a face full of sadness, and said : ' Here
are twenty-three ministers, of different denomina-
tions, and all of them are against me but three ; and
here are a great many prominent members of the
churches, a very large majority of whom are against
me. Mr. Bateman, I am not a Christian God
knows I would be one but I have carefully read the
Bible, and I do not so understand this book ;' and he
drew from his bosom a pocket New Testament.
' These men well know,' he continued, ' that I am for
freedom in the territories, freedom everywhere as
far as the Constitution and laws will permit, and that
my opponents are for slavery. They know this,
and yet, with this book in their hands, in the light
of which human bondage cannot live a moment, they
are going to vote against me. I do not understand
it at all.' Here Mr. Lincoln paused paused for
long minutes his features surcharged with emotion.
Then he rose and walked up and down the room in
the effort to retain or regain his self-possession.
Stopping at last, he said, with a trembling voice and
his cheeks wet with tears : ' I know there is a God,
and that he hates injustice and slavery. I see the
storm coming, and I know that his hand is in it. If
he has a place for me and I think he has I believe
I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything.
I know I am right, for Christ teaches it, and Christ
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 23
" The effect of this conversation upon the mind of
Mr. Bateman, a Christian gentleman whom Mr. Lin-
coln profoundly respected, was to convince him that
Mr. Lincoln had, in his quiet way, found a path to
the Christian standpoint that he had found God,
and rested on the eternal truth of God. As the two
men were about to separate, Mr. Bateman remarked :
' I have not supposed that you were accustomed to
think so much upon this class of subjects. Certainly
your friends generally are ignorant of the sentiments
you have expressed to me.' He replied quickly : ' I
know they are. I am obliged to appear different to
them ; but I think more upon these subjects than
upon all others, and I have done so for years ; and I
am willing that you should know it ' " (Life of Lin-
coln, pp. 236-239).
REV. J. A. REED.
In 1872, seven years after the publication of Hol-
land's work, Lamon's " Life of Abraham Lincoln "
was published. In this work the statements of Hol-
land and Bateman concerning Lincoln's religious
belief are disputed, and the testimony of numerous
witnesses cited to prove that he lived and died a dis-
believer. Soon after Lamon's book was published,
the Rev. J. A. Reed, a Presbyterian clergyman, of
Springfield, 111., delivered a lecture in which he at-
tempted to refute or modify the evidence of Lamon's
24 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
witnesses and prove that Lincoln died a Christian.
He admitted that Lincoln was an Infidel up to 1848,
and possibly as late as 1862, but endeavored to show
that previous to his death he changed his views and
became a Christian. The following extracts present
the salient points in his discourse :
" Having shown what claims Mr. Lamon's book
has to being the * only fair and reliable history ' of
Mr. Lincoln's life and views, and of what 'trust-
worthy materials ' it is composed, I shall now give
the testimony I have collected to establish what has
ever been the public impression, that Mr. Lincoln
was in his later life, and at the time of his death, a
firm believer in the truth of the Christian religion.
The Infidelitv of his earlier life is not so much to be
wondered at, when we consider the poverty of his
early religious instruction and the peculiar influences
by which he was surrounded."
" It does not appear that he had ever seen, much
less read, a work pn the evidences of Christianity till
his interview with Kev. Dr. Smith in 1848. We hear
of him as reading Paine, Voltaire, and Theodore
" While it is to be regretted that Mr. Lincoln was
not spared to indicate his religious sentiments by a
profession of his faith in accordance with the insti-
tutiofes of the Christian religion, yet it is very clear
that he had this step in view, :md was seriously con-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 25
templating it, as a sense of its fitness and an appre-
hension of his duty grew upon him.'
In support of his claims, Dr. Eeed presents the
testimony of Eev. Dr. Smith, Ninian W. Edwards,
Thomas Lewis, Noah Brooks, Eev. Dr. Sunderland,
Eev. Dr. Miner, and Eev. Dr. Gurley.
REV. JAMES SMITH, D.D.
The Eev. James Smith was for many years pastor
of the First Presbyterian Church of Springfield.
Lincoln formed his acquaintance soon after he lo-
cated there, remained on friendly terms with him,
and with Mrs. Lincoln frequently attended his
church. Dr. Smith was one of the three Springfield
clergymen who supported Lincoln for President in
1860, and in recognition of his friendship and fidel-
ity, he received the consulship at Lhindee. Dr. Eeed
quotes from a letter to W. H. Herndon, dated East
Cainno, Scotland, January 24, 1867, in which Dr.
Smith says :
" It is a very easy matter to prove that while I was
pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Spring-
field, Mr. Lincoln did avow his belief in the divine
authority and inspiration of the scriptures, and I
hold that it is a matter of the last importance not
only to the present, but all future generations of the
great Eepublic, and to all advocates of civil and re-
ligious liberty throughout the world, that this avowal
ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
on his part, and the circumstances attending it,
together with very interesting incidents illustrative
of the excellence of his character, in my possession,
should be made known to the public. ... It
was my honor to place before Mr. Lincoln arguments
designed to prove the divine authority and inspira-
tion of the scriptures accompanied by the arguments
of Infidel objectors in their own language. To the
arguments 011 both sides Mr. Lincoln gave a most
patient, impartial, and searching investigation. To
use his own language, he examined the arguments as
a lawver who is anxious to reach the truth investi-
gates testimony. The result was the announcement
by himself that the argument in favor of the divine
authority and inspiration of the Scriptures was un-
HON. NfNIAN W. EDWARDS.
Ninian W. Edwards, a brother-in-law of Lincoln,
writes as follows :
" Springfield, Dec. 24th, 1872.
" Rev. Jas. A. Eeed :
" Dear Sir
" A short time after the Rev. Dr. Smith became
pastor of the First Presbyterian church in this city,
Mr. Lincoln said to me, ' I have been reading a work
of Dr. Smith on the evidences of Christianity, and
have heard him preach and converse on the subject,
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 27
and I am now convinced of the truth of the Christian
religion.' Yours truly,
" N. W. Edwards."
In corroboration of Mr. Edwards's statement,
Thomas Lewis, of Springfield, 111., testifies as fol-
" Springfield, Jan. 6th, 1873.
" Kev. J. A. Eeed :
" Dear Sir
"Not long after Dr. Smith came to Springfield,
and I think very near the time of his son's death,
Mr. Lincoln said to me, that when on a visit some-
where, he had seen and partially read a work of Dr.
Smith on the evidences of Christianity which had
led him to change his views about the Christian
religion ; that he would like to get that work to
finish the reading of it, and also to make the ac-
quaintance of Dr. Smith. I was an elder in Dr.
Smith's church, and took Dr. Smith to Mr. Lincoln's
office and introduced him ; and Dr. Smith gave Mr.
Lincoln a copy of his book, as I know, at his own
request. Yours etc.,
" Thos. Lewis."
Noah Brooks, a newspaper correspondent of New
28 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
York, and the author of a biography of Lincoln,
gives the following testimony :
"New York, Dec. 31, 1872.
" Eev. J. A. Reed,
" My Dear Sir :
" In addition to what has appeared from my pen,
I will state that I have had many conversations with
Mr. Lincoln, which were more or less of a religious
character, and while I never tried to draw anything
like a statement of his views from him, yet he freely
expressed himself to me as having ' a hope of blessed
immortality through Jesus Christ.' His views
seemed to settle so naturally around that statement,
that I considered no other necessary. His language
seemed not that of an inquirer, but of one
who had a prior settled belief in the fundamental
doctrines of the Christian religion. Once or twice,
speaking to me of the change which had come upon
him, he said, while he could not fix any detinite
time, yet it was after lie came here, and I am very
positive that in his own mind he identified it with
about the time of Willie's death. He said, too, that
after he went to the White House he kept up the
habit of daily prayer. Sometimes he said it was
only ten words, but those ten words he had. There
is no possible reason to suppose that Mr. Lincoln
would ever deceive me as to his religious sentiments.
In many conversations with him, I absorbed the firm
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 29
conviction that Mr. Lincoln was at heart a Christian
man, believed in the Savior, and was seriously con-
sidering the step which would formally connect him
with the visible church on earth. Certainly, any
suggestion as to Mr. Lincoln's skepticism or Infidel-
ity, to me who knew him intimately from 1862 till
the time of his death, is a monstrous fiction a
" Yours truly,
" Noah Brooks."
REV. BYRON SUNDERLAND, D.D.
Mr. Reed presents a lengthy letter from the Rev.
Byron Sunderland, of Washington, dated Nov. 15,
1872. Dr. Sunderland in company with a party of
friends visited the President in the autumn of 1862.
In this letter he says :
"After some conversation, in which he seemed
disposed to have his joke and fun, he settled down
to a serious consideration of the subject before his
mind, and for one half-hour poured forth a volume
of the deepest Christian philosophy I ever heard."
REV. DR. MINER.
The Rev. Dr. Miner, who met Lincoln in Washing-
ton, says :
" All that was said during that memorable after-
noon I spent alone with that great and good man is
ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
engraven too deeply on my memory ever to be
effaced. I felt certain of this fact, that if Mr. Lin-
coln was not really an experimental Christian, he
was acting like one. He was doing his duty man-
fully, and looking to God for help in time of need ;
and, like the immortal Washington, he believed in
the efficacy of prayer, and it was his custom to read
the Scriptures and pray himself."
REV. P. D. GURLEY, D.D.
While in Washington, Lincoln with his family
attended the Presbyterian church of which the Rev.
Dr. Gurley was pastor. Mr. Reed cites the follow-
ing as the testimony of Dr. Gurley in regard to the
alleged Infidelity of Lincoln :
" I do not believe a word of it. It could not have
been true of him while here, for I have had frequent
and intimate conversations with him on the subject
of the Bible and the Christian religion, when he
could have had no motive to deceive me, and I con-
sidered him sound not onlv on the truth of the
Christian religion but on all its fundamental doctrines
and teachings. And more than that, in the latter
days of his chastened and weary life, after the death
of his son Willie, and his visit to the battlefield of
Gettysburg, he said, with tears in his eyes, that he
had lost confidence in everything but God, and that
he now believed his heart was changed, and that he
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 31
loved the Savior, and, if he was not deceived in him-
self, it was his intention soon to make a profession
HON. ISAAC N. ARNOLD.
One of the most ardent friends and admirers of
Abraham Lincoln was Isaac N. Arnold, for several
years a member of Congress from Illinois. Mr.
Arnold wrote a work on " Lincoln and Slavery," and
a " Life of Lincoln " which was published in 1885.
Lincoln's religious views are thus described by Mr.
"No more reverent Christian than he ever sat in
the Executive chair, not excepting Washington. He
was by nature religious ; full of religious sentiment.
The veil between him and the supernatural was very
thin. It is not claimed that he was orthodox. For
creeds and dogmas he cared little. But in the* gyeat
fundamental principles of religion, of the Christian
religion, he was a firm believer. Belief in the exist-
ence of God, in the immortality of the soul, in the
Bible as the revelation of God to man, in the efficacy
and duty of prayer, in reverence toward the Almighty,
and in love and charity to man, was the basis of his
religion " (Life of Lincoln, p. 446).
"His reply to the Negroes of Baltimore when
they, in 1864, presented him with a magnificent
Bible, ought to silence forever those who charge him
with unbelief. He said : ' In regard to the Great
Book I have only to say that it is the best gift which
God has given to man. All the good from the Savior
of the world is communicated through this book ' "
(Ibid., p. 447).
" His faith in a Divine Providence began at his
mother's knee, and ran through all the changes of
his life. Not orthodox, not a man of creeds, he was
a man of simple trust in God " (Ib., p. 448).
F. B. CARPENTER.
Mr. Carpenter, the artist, in his popular book,
entitled " Six Months in the White House with
Abraham Lincoln," uses the following language :
" I would scarcely have called Mr. Lincoln a re-
ligious man and yet I believe him to have been a
sincere Christian " (Six Months in the White House,
In the spring of 1887, in going from Springfield
to Havana, I met Isaac Hawley, one of the early
settlers of Illinois, and who for nearly twenty years
resided within a few blocks of Lincoln in Springfield.
In answer to the question, " Was Lincoln a Chris-
tian?" Mr. Hawley replied:
" I believe that Lincoln was a Christian, and that
he was God's chosen instrument to perform the
mighty work he did."
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
REV. MR. WILLETS.
The Eev. Mr. Willets, of Brooklyn, N. Y., is cred-
ited with the following statement concerning Lin-
coln's reputed conversion. The information it con-
tains was obtained, it is said, from a lady of Mr.
Willets's acquaintance who met Lincoln in Washing-
" The President, it seemed, had been much im-
pressed with the devotion and earnestness of pur-
pose manifested by the lady, and on one occasion,
after she had discharged the object of her visit, he
said to her : " Mrs. , I have formed a high opin-
ion of vour Christian character, and now, as we are
alone, I have a mind to ask you to give me, in brief,
your idea of what constitutes a true religious expe-
rience.' The lady replied at some length, stating
that, in her judgment, it consisted of a conviction of
one's own sinfulness and weakness, and personal
need of a Savior for strength and support; that
views of mere doctrine might and would differ, but
when one was really brought to feel his need of
divine help, and to seek the aid of the Holy Spirit
for strength and guidance, it was satisfactory evi-
dence of his having been born again. This was the
substance of her reply. When she had concluded,
Mr. Lincoln was very thoughtful for a few moments.
He at length said, very earnestly, * If what you have
34 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
told me is really a correct view of this great subject,
I think I can say with sincerity that I hope I am a
Christian ' " (Anecdotes of Lincoln, pp. 166, 167).
A PIOUS NURSE.
A pious lady, who served in the capacity of a hos-
pital nurse at Washington, and who sometimes vis-
ited the White House, testifies to Lincoln's belief in
the efficacy of prayer. The incident narrated oc-
curred while a battle was in progress,. The report
" The possibility of defeat depressed him greatly ;
but the lady told him he must trust, and that he
could at least pray. * Yes,' said he, and taking up a
Bible, he started for his room. Could all the peo-
ple of the nation have overheard the earnest peti-
tion that went up from that inner chamber as it
reached the ears of the nurse, they would have fallen
upon their knees with tearful and reverential sym-
pathy " (Anecdotes of Lincoln, p. 120).
WESTERN CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE.
Soon after the close of the war, the Western Chris-
tian Advocate, the leading Christian journal of the
West, published the following :
" On the day of the receipt of the capitulation of
Lee, as we learn from a friend intimate with the late
President Lincoln, the cabinet meeting was held an
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 35
hour earlier than usual. Neither the President nor
any member was able, for a time, to give utterance
to his feelings. At the suggestion of Mr. Lincoln all
dropped on their knees, and offered in silence and
in tears their humble and heartfelt acknowledgment
to the Almighty for the triumph he had granted
to the national cause."
The above is quoted by Baymond and other biog-
raphers of Lincoln.
AH ILLINOIS CLERGYMAN.
In the " Lincoln Memorial Album " appears
what is reported to be Lincoln's "Reply to an
Illinois Clergyman :"
" When I left Springfield I asked the people to
pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried
my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a
Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg, and saw
the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and
there consecrated myself to Christ. Yes, I do love
Jesus" (L. M. A., p. 366).
REV. JOHN H. BARROWS.
In the " Lincoln Memorial Album," Dr. J. H.
Barrows contributes an article on " The Beligious
Aspects of Abraham Lincoln's Career," from which
I quote as follows :
" In the anxious uncertainties of the great war, he
36 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
gradually rose to the Lights where Jehovah became
to him the sublimestof realities, the ruler of nations.
When he wrote his immortal Proclamation, he
invoked upon it not only ' the considerate judgment
of mankind,' but * the gracious favor of Almighty
God.' When darkness gathered over the brave
armies fighting for the nation's life, this strong man
in the early morning knelt and wrestled in prayer
with him who holds in his hand the fate of empires.
When the clouds lifted above the carnage of Gettys-
burg, he gave his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ.
When he pronounced his matchless oration on the
chief battlefield of the war, he gave expression to
the resolve that ' this nation, under God, should
have a new birth of freedom.' And when he wrote
his last Inaugural Address, he gave to it the lofty
religious tone of an old Hebrew psalm ' (L. M. A.,
REV. FRANCIS VINTON, D.D.
This clergyman, a resident of New York, and a
stranger to Lincoln, visited the White House in
1862, it is claimed, and indulged in an argument and
exhortation, the effect of which was to convert the
President to a belief in the Christian doctrine of the
resurrection and the immortality of the soul. Dur-
ing the interview, Lincoln, it is reported, fell upon
the neck of his clerical visitor and wept like a child.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 37
Before retiring, Dr. Vinton said : " I have a sermon
upon this subject which I think might interest you."
" Mr. Lincoln," the report continues, " begged him
to send it at an early day, thanking him repeatedly
for his cheering and hopeful words. The sermon
was sent, and read over and over by the President,
who caused a copy to be made for his own private
use before it was returned " (Anecdotes of Lincoln,
pp. 107, 108).
The most eminent Methodist divine of that period
was Bishop Simpson. During the war his com-
manding influence and rare eloquence did much to
secure for the Union cause the united support of
Northern Methodists. Lincoln appreciated the
services of the distinguished divine, and they
became warm friends. When the remains of the
President were conveyed to their final resting-place
at Springfield, Bishop Simpson was selected to
deliver the funeral oration. Alluding to the religious
phase of Lincoln's character, he spoke as fol-
"As a ruler, I doubt if any President has ever
shown such trust in God, or in public documents so
frequently referred to divine aid. Often did he
remark to friends and to delegations that his hope
for our success rested in his conviction that God
would bless our efforts because we were trying to do
right " (Lincoln and Slavery, p. 673).
WAS HE A CHBISTIAN? 39
BEVIKW OF CHBISTIAN TESTIMONY HOLLAND AND BATE-
Character of Holland's " Life of Lincoln " TheBateman Interview
Inconsistency and untruthfulness of its statements Holland's Subse-
quent Modification and Final Abandonment of his original Claims.
IN the preceding chapter has been presented the
Christian side of this question. It has been pre-
sented fully and fairly. Even the Christian claimant
must admit that it is the longest and most complete
array of testimony that has yet been published
in support of his claim. This evidence is explicit
and apparently conclusive. To attempt its refutation
may seem presumptuous. And yet, in the face of all
this evidence, the writer does not hesitate to declare
that Abraham Lincoln was not a Christian, and
pledge himself to refute the statements of these wit-
nesses by a volume of testimony that is irresistible
Before introducing this testimony the evidence
already adduced will be reviewed. This evidence
may properly be grouped into three divisions : 1.
The testimony of Holland and Bateman; 2. The
40 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
testimony of Keed and his witnesses; 3. The tes-
timony of Arnold and the miscellaneous evidence
Holland's " Life of Lincoln," from a literary point
of view, is a work of more than ordinary merit. It
possesses a beauty of diction and an intellectual
vigor seldom surpassed ; but as an authority it is
unreliable. Like Weems's " Life of Washington," it
is simply a biographical romance founded upon fact,
but paying little regard to facts in presenting the
details. Following the natural bent of Christian
biographers, Holland parades the subject of his
work as a model of Christian piety. He knew that
this was false ; for, while he was unacquainted with
Lincoln, he had been apprised of his unbelief had
been repeatedly told of it before he wrote his
biography. But this did not deter him from assert-
ing the contrary. He knew that if he stated the
facts the clergy would condemn his book. They
needed the influence of Lincoln's great name to
support their crumbling creed, and would have it at
any sacrifice, particularly when its possession re-
quired no greater sacrifice than truth. Holland was
equal to the emergency. When one of Lincoln's
friends in Springfield suggested that the less said
about his religious views the better, he promptly
replied : "Oh, never mind ; I'll fix that." And he
did. With dramatic embellishments, he presented
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 41
to the delight of the orthodox world the now famous,
or rather infamous, Bateinan interview.
The publication of this story produced a profound
sensation among the personal friends of the dead
President. It revealed to them the unpleasant fact,
assuming Holland's account to be correct, either that
Newton Bateman, who had hitherto borne the repu-
tation of being a man of veracity, was an unscrupu-
lous liar, or that Abraham Lincoln, whose reputation
for honesty and candor, long anterior to I860, had
become proverbial, was a consummate hypocrite ;
and loath as they were to believe the former, they
rejected with disdain the latter.
Eeferring to this story, Lamon, in his " Life of
Lincoln," says :
" There is no dealing with Mr. Bateman except by
a flat contradiction. Perhaps his memory was
treacherous or his imagination led him astray, or,
perad venture, he thought a fraud no harm if it
gratified the strong desire of the public for proofs of
Mr. Lincoln's orthodoxy " (Life of Lincoln, p. 501).
While Bateman undoubtedly misrepresented Lin-
coln in his account of their conversation for it is
not denied that he had an interview with Lincoln
it is quite probable that he did not to the extent
represented by Holland. Bateman doubtless exag-
gerated the affair, and Holland magnified Bate-
man's report of it. In an article originally published
42 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
in the Index, and subsequently quoted by Lamon,
Lincoln's law partner, Mr. Herndon, says :
" I doubt whether Mr. Bateman said in full what
is recorded there. I doubt a great deal of it. I
know the whole story is untrue untrue in sub-
stance, untrue in fact and spirit. As soon as the
[Holland's] ' Life of Lincoln ' was out, on reading
that part here referred to, I instantly sought Mr.
Bateman and found him in his office. I spoke to
him politely and kindly, and he spoke to me in the
same manner. I said substantially to him that Mr.
Holland, in order to make Mr. Lincoln a technical
Christian, made him a hypocrite ; and so his ' Life of
Lincoln ' quite plainly says. I loved Mr. Lincoln,
and was mortified, if not angry, to see him made a
hypocrite. I cannot now detail what Mr. Bateman said,
as it was a private conversation, and I am forbidden
to make use of it in public. If some good gentleman
can only get the seal of secrecy removed I can show
what was said and done. On my word, the world
may take it for granted that Holland is wrong that
he does not state Mr. Lincoln's views correctly"
(Lamon's Life of Lincoln, p. 496).
In a lecture on " Lincoln's Eeligion," delivered in
Springfield in 1874, alluding to the same subject,
Mr. Herndon says :
" My notes of our conversation bear date Decem-
ber 3, 12, and 28, 1865. Our conversations were
WAS HE A CHBISTIAN?
private, I suppose. However, I can say this much :
that Mr. Bateman expressly told me Mr. Lin-
coln was, in the conversation related in Hoi-
land, talking politics and not religion, nor Christian-
ity, nor morals, as such. I have persistently dogged
Mr. Bateman for the privilege of publishing my
notes, or to give me a letter explaining what Mr.
Lincoln did say, so that I might make known the
facts of the case. Mr. Bateman has as stoutly <
Dr. Bateman finally permitted Mr. Herndon to
make public a letter, marked " confidential," which
he had written Mr. Herndon in 1867. In this letter
Bateman says :
" He [Lincoln] was applying the principles of
moral and religious truth to the duties of the hour,
the condition of the country, and the conduct of
public men ministers of the gospel. I had no
thought of orthodoxy or heterodoxy, Unitarianism,
Trinitarianism, or any other ism, during the whole
conversation, and I don't suppose or believe he had."
Had Lincoln made the confession he is reported
to have made, this would have suggested to Mr.
Bateman the idea of his admitted orthodoxy as well
as his reputed heterodoxy. Had Lincoln declared
that " Christ is God," this would have suggested to
him the idea of Trinitarianism. It will be seen, even
from this letter, that instead of talking theology and
44 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
professing a belief in Christianity, he was talking
politics and denouncing the intolerance and bigotry
of Christian ministers.
Dr. Bateman privately asserts that he was not cor-
rectly reported, that Holland's version of the inter-
view "is colored." It is to be regretted that he
had not the courage to state this fact to the public,
and his plea, " My aversion to publicity in such
matters is intense," is a poor apology for refusing to
As previously intimated, this story is probably
founded on fact and has an element of truth in it.
Lincoln and Bateman had a political interview, and
the object of this interview was the examination and
discussion of the list of Springfield voters. This list
revealed the fact that twenty out of twenty-three
clergymen and a very large majority of the church-
members of Springfield were opposed to Lincoln.
The significance of this fact Dr. Holland and Dr.
Bateman have apparently overlooked. Why was the
church opposed to him ? It must have been either
because it was opposed to the Republican party, or
because he was personally objectionable to the mem-
bers of that party. His political principles were the
principles of his party, his ability was conceded, and
his moral character was above reproach. It is fair
to assume that the political sentiment of the Chris-
tians of Springfield was substantially the political
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
sentiment of Northern Christians generally. Now,
was the Northern Church overwhelmingly in favor
of the extension of slavery ? Were eighty-seven per
cent, of Northern Christians Democrats ? Or did the
Christians of Springfield oppose Lincoln because he
was an Infidel?
Holland makes Bateman affirm that Lincoln " drew
from his bosom a pocket New Testament." It is
generally believed by Lincoln's friends that he did
not have a New Testament, that the only book used
in the interview was the book containing the list of
Springfield voters. One of them says : " The idea
that Mr. Lincoln carried the New Testament or
Bible in his bosom or boots, to draw on his opponents
in debate, is ridiculous." It is possible, however,
that there was a New Testament in the room, and
that Lincoln used it to enforce an argument. Indeed,
there is internal evidence in the story, aside from the
declaration of Bateman, that such was the case. The
central idea in his political creed the keynote of
his campaigns, both in 1858 and in 1860 was con-
tained in that memorable passage, " * A house divided
against itself cannot stand.' This government can
not endure permanently half slave and half free."
The figure quoted was a familiar and powerful one,
and Lincoln recognized its force in dealing with the
masses. It was taken from the New Testament, and
from the words of Christ himself. That he should
46 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
use it against those Christians who were acting con-
trary to this well-known truth, is not strange. Im-
mediately after the declaration, " Christ is God," he
is reported as saying : " I have told them that a house
divided against itself cannot stand, and Christ and
reason say the same." This furnishes a solution to
the whole story. This shows what he was doing
with a New Testament. In connection with this,
nothing is more natural than that he should exclaim :
" Christ teaches it, and Christ is [their] God ! " That
he was terribly in earnest, that he was deeply agi-
tated and pained to learn that his Christian neigh-
bors were opposed to him, is not improbable. Thus
the incidents of a simple political interview that
were natural and reasonable have been perverted to
make it appear that he was a Christian. A mere
reference to the New Testament and Christ have
been twisted into an acknowledgment of their divin-
ity. Bateman himself admits that Lincoln said : "I
am not a Christian." Why not accept his statement,
then ? Why then distort his words and in the face
of this positive declaration attempt to prove that he
was a Christian ? Bateman reports him as modify-
ing the statement by adding : " God knows I would
be one." Yes, " God knows I would be one were I
convinced that Christianity is true, but not convinced
of its truth, I am an unbeliever."
Lincoln is also reported to have said that in the
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 47
light of the New Testament " human bondage can
not live a moment." But he did not utter these
words. He did not utter them because they are un-
true, and none knew this better than himself. He
knew that in the light of this book human bondage
had lived for nearly two thousand years ; he knew
that this book was one of the great bulwarks of hu-
man slavery ; he knew that there was not to be found
between its lids a single text condemning slavery,
while there were to be found a score of texts sus-
taining it ; he knew that that infamous law, the
Fugitive Slave law, received its warrant from this
book that Paul, in the light of its earliest teach-
ings, had returned a fugitive slave to his master.
In this story Lincoln is charged with the grossest
hypocrisy. He is declared to have professed a be-
lief in Christ and Christianity, and when Bateman
observed that his friends were ignorant of this, he is
made to reply : " I know they are. I am obliged to
appear different to them." Now, to use Lincoln's
own words, " A sane person can no more act with-
out a motive than can there be an effect without a
cause," and what possible motive could he have had
for such conduct? Supposing that he was base
enough to be a hypocrite, what could induce him to
lead the world to suppose he was an Infidel if he
were not? In the eyes of the more ignorant and
bigoted class of Christians, Infidelity is a more
heinous crime than murder, and an Infidel is a
creature scarcely to be tolerated, much less to be
intrusted with a public office. Freethinkers gen-
erally detest the dogmas of Christianity as
thoroughly as Christians possibly can the principles
of Freethought. But free thought and free speech
are the leading tenets of their creed. They recog-
nize the fact that we are all the children of circum-
stances, that our belief is determined by our en-
vironments, and while they reject Christianity, they
have nothing but charity for those who consci-
entiously profess it. They may repudiate a bigot,
but will not oppose a man merely because he is a
Christian. If Lincoln were an Infidel, discretion
might urge a concealment of his views ; if he were a
Christian, policy would prompt him to give it as
wide a publicity as possible, especially when he
rested under the imputation of being a disbeliever.
Had he changed his belief and become a convert to
Christianity, a knowledge of the fact would not have
lost him the support of his friends, even though
some of them were Freethinkers ; while it would
have secured for him a more cordial support from
the Republican side of the church, many of whom
had been alienated on account of his supposed anti-
Christian sentiments. It is hard to believe that
Lincoln was a hypocrite ; but this story, if true,
makes him not only a hypocrite but a fool. If he
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 49
believed in Christianity there can be but one reason
advanced for his desiring to keep it a secret he was
ashamed of it.
Holland, in trying to explain away the inconsist-
encies of this fabrication, repeatedly blunders. In
one of his attempts he makes use of the following
remarkable language :
" It was one of the peculiarities of Mr. Lincoln to
hide these religious experiences from the eyes of
the world. . . . They [his friends] did not re-
gard him as a religious man. They had never seen
anything but the active lawyer, the keen politician,
the jovial, fun-loving companion in Mr. Lincoln.
All this department of his life he had kept carefully
hidden from them. Why he should say that he was
obliged to appear differently to others does not ap-
pear ; but the fact is a matter of history that he
never exposed his own religious life to those who
had no sympathy with it. It is doubtful whether
the clergymen of Springfield knew anything of these
experiences" (Life of Lincoln, pp. 239, 240).
What ! had the clergymen of Springfield no sym-
pathy with a religious life ? A person can utter one
falsehood with some degree of plausibility ; but
when he attempts to verify it by uttering another, he
usually trips and falls. The above passage is mere
hypocritical cant. It carries with it not only its own
refutation, but that of the rest of Holland's testi-
50 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
mony also. It is the language of the man who is
conscious of having stated a falsehood ; conscious
that there are others who believe it to be a false-
hood. He knew that the personal friends of Lin-
coln all understood him to be a disbeliever. He
knew that the church-members of Springfield all
entertained the same opinion. He virtually says to
these people : " It is true that Lincoln professed to
be an Infidel, but he was not ; he was a Christian.
The fact has been kept a profound secret. Bateman
and I have been the sole custodians of this secret,
and we now give it to the world."
A Christian writer, apologizing for the absurd and
contradictory statements of Holland and Bateman,
says, " They aimed at the truth." I do not believe
it. It is clearly evident that they aimed at a plau-
sible lie. But in either case they made a bad shot.
In his "Life of Lincoln," Holland endeavors to
convey the impression that Lincoln was always a
devout Christian. He declares that even during the
years of his early manhood at New Salem, " he was
a religious man ;" that " he had a deep religious
life." When Herndon and Lamon exposed his
shameful misrepresentations he retreated from his
first position, and in Scribmr's Monthly wrote as fol-
" What Abraham Lincoln was when he lived at
New Salem and wrote an anti-Christian tract (which
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
the friend to whom he showed it somewhat violently
but most judiciously put in the fire) is one thing,
and it may be necessary for an impartial historian
to record it. What he was when he died at Wash-
ington with those most Christian words of the Second
Inaugural upon his lips, and that most Christian
record of five years of patient tenderness and charity
behind him, is quite another thing."
He admits that Lincoln was an Intidel in Illinois,
but would have us believe that he was a Christian
in Washington. He refers to " those most Christian
words of the Second Inaugural," and "that most
Christian record of five years of patient tenderness
and charity." In the Second Inaugural there is not
a word affirming a belief in Christianity not a word
in reference to Christianity. He mentions God, and
quotes from the Bible, but does not intimate that the
Bible is God's word. That Christians have a mo-
nopoly of " patient tenderness and charity," can
hardly be accepted. The history of the church does
not confirm this assumption. Many Christians have
possessed these virtues. So have the votaries of
other religions. These attributes belong to good
men everywhere, but they are the distinguishing
features of no particular creed.
Smarting under his exposure, with that whining
cant so peculiar to the vanquished religionist, Hoi-
52 ABBAHAM LINCOLN I
land finally sent forth this parting wail and virtually
abandoned the whole case :
" The question is, not whether Abraham Lincoln was
a subscriber to the creeds of orthodoxy, but whether
he was a believing that is to say, a truthful Chris-
tian man ; not whether he was accustomed to call
Jesus Christ ' Lord, Lord,' but whether he was used
to do those things which Jesus Christ exemplified
and enforced. He was accustomed, as we know well
enough, to speak of an Almighty Father, of whom
justice and mercy and sympathy with weak and suf-
fering humanity were characteristic attributes. Who
was it that revealed to man a God like this? Who
was it that once ' showed us the Father and it suf-
ficed us ? ' Whoever it was that made this revela-
tion to mankind it was of him that this man, even
though he knew it not, had learned, and it was in
his spirit that he acted" (Scribner's Monthly).
The concluding words of Dr. Holland's testimony,
as quoted from his " Life of Lincoln," are as follows :
" Moderate, frank, truthful, gentle, forgiving, lov-
ing, just, Mr. Lincoln will always be remembered as
eminently a Christian President ; and the almost
immeasurably great results which he had the privi-
lege of achieving were due to the fact that he was a
This prediction and this assumption are false. 1
change one word and make them grandly true.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
"Moderate, frank, truthful, gentle, forgiving,
loving, just, Mr. Lincoln will always be remembered
as eminently a Liberal President ; and the almost
immeasurably great results which he had the privi-
lege of achieving were due to the fact that he was a
ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
REVIEW OF CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY REED AND HIS WIT-
Reed Smith Edwards Lewis B r ooks Statements of Edwards.
Smith, and Brooks Compared Simderland Miner Gurley Failure of
Reed to Establish his Claims.
OF the twenty Christian witnesses whose testimony
is given in Chapter I., ten admit that, during a part
of his life, Lincoln was an unbeliever, or Infidel. Of
the remaining ten, not one denies the fact. It is
conceded, then, that he was once an Infidel. Now,
it is a rule of law that when a certain state or condi-
tion of things is once proven to exist, that state or
condition is presumed to continue to exist until the
contrary is proven. If Lincoln was, at one time, an
Infidel, it is fair to assume that he remained an In-
fidel, unless it can be shown that he changed his be-
lief and became a Christian. This Dr. Heed at-
tempts to do.
His lecture, under the caption of " The Later Life
and Religious Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln," will
be found in Scribner's Monthly for July, 1873. The
evidence presented by Lamon had placed Dr. Hoi-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 55
land in a most unenviable light. As Reed's lecture
reaffirmed the claim made by Holland, and brought
forward fresh evidence to substantiate the claim, it
was naturally regarded by many Christians as a vin-
dication of Holland's position, especially by those
who had not read Lamon's work. Holland was par-
ticularly pleased at its opportune appearance, and
cheerfully gave it a place in his magazine.
Reed's individual testimony proves nothing. He
does not profess to know, from personal knowledge,
what Lincoln's religious views were. The object of
his lecture was to invalidate, if possible, the testi-
mony of those who affirmed that he died an Infidel,
and to present, in addition to what had already been
presented by Holland, the testimony of those who
affirmed that during the last years of his life he wag
a Christian. To answer his witnesses is to answer
The Rev. Dr. Smith affirms that he converted Lin-
coln to a belief in " the divine authority and inspira-
tion of tJie Scriptures." It was imperative that he
should, for, said he, " It was my honor to place be-
fore Mr. Lincoln arguments designed to prove the
divine authority and inspiration of the Scriptures."
As a matter of course, "the result was the announce-
ment by himself that the arguments in favor of the
divine authority and inspiration of the Scriptures
were unanswerable." Consequently, " Mr^ Lincoln
56 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
did avow his belief in the divine authority and iiispira-
tion of the Scriptures."
Impressed with a deep sense of the gravity and
importance of his work, he declares that " It is a
matter of the last importance not only to the present
but to all future generations of the great Republic,
and to all advocates of civil and religious liberty
throughout the world that this avowal on his part,
. . . should be made known to the public,"
coupled with the more important fact, of course,
that it was Dr. Smith who did it. It is to be re-
gretted that his waiting until after Lincoln's death
to announce it, prevented the convert's Christian
friends from tendering their congratulations and ex-
tending the hand of fellowship. It is possible that
he counseled Dr. Smith not to divulge the secret for
fear it might injure his political prospects. Certain
it is, his neighbors were ignorant of this remarkable
change. When Holland canvassed Springfield, in
1865, eager to obtain a morsel of evidence upon
which to base his claim that Lincoln was a Christian,
he failed to catch even the faintest whisper regard-
ing this alleged conversion.
When Dr. Smith's letter was made public, the
Christians of Springfield generally smiled, but said
nothing, while unbelievers laughed outright and
pronounced it the acme of absurdity. Dr. Reed read
it to his audience and tried to look serious.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 57
Concerning this claim, Lincoln's biographer, Colo-
nel Lamon, says :
" The abilities of this gentleman to discuss such a
topic to the edification of a man like Mr. Lincoln
seem to have been rather slender ; but the chance of
converting so distinguished a person inspired him
with a zeal which he might not have felt for the
salvation of an obscurer soul. Mr. Lincoln listened
to his exhortations in silence, apparently respectful,
and occasionally sat out his sermons in church with
as much patience as other people. Finding these
oral appeals unavailing, Mr. Smith composed a
heavy tract out of his own head to suit the particular
case. 'The preparation of that work/ says he,
' cost me long and arduous labor ;' but it does not
appear to have been read. Mr. Lincoln took the
' work ' to his office, laid it down without writing his
name on it, and never took it up again to the knowl-
edge of a man who inhabited the office with him,
and who saw it lying on the same spot every day for
months. Subsequently Mr. Smith drew from Mr.
Lincoln an acknowledgment that his argument was
unanswerable not a very high compliment under
the circumstances " (Life of Lincoln, p. 498).
The gentleman whom Colonel Lamon refers to as
testifying that Lincoln did not read Dr. Smith's book
was Lincoln's partner, Mr. Herndon. In his lecture .
pn " Lincoln's Religion," Mr. Herndon says :
58 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
" Mr. Lincoln received a book from Dr. Smith on
Infidelity. He placed it on our law table. He
never opened ib never read it to my knowledge."
If Dr. Smith had converted Lincoln, as claimed,
is it not reasonable to suppose that he would have
joined Dr. Smith's church? Had he been converted
would the clergymen of Springfield have denounced
him as an Infidel in 1860? Again, if Dr. Smith's
book was so effective as to convert from Infidelity to
Christianity as great a mind as Lincoln, why have
we not heard more of it ? Why has it not been used
to convert other Infidels ? Was its vitality as an
evangelizer exhausted in converting Lincoln?
Mr. Beed was a trifle more successful than Dr.
Holland in obtaining witnesses ; for while Holland
was able to secure but one witness in Illinois, Beed
was able to summon two Ninian Edwards and
The testimony of Mr. Edwards, providing that he
was the author of the letter accredited to him, can
only be accounted for on the following supposition.
Being a believer in Christianity himself, he consid-
ered Lincoln's Infidelity a grave defect in his char-
acter, and was vexed to see that t}ris controversy had
given it such wide publicity. To assist in removing
this stain, as he regarded it. from his kinsman's
.name, he allowed to be published over his signature
a statement which, unless his memory was very
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 59
treacherous, he must have known was untrue.
It may be that Lincoln did change his views in
regard to some historical or doctrinal point con-
nected with Christianity, and informed Mr. Edwards
and other friends at the time of the fact. He might
have changed his opinions on a hundred theological
questions without having in the least changed his
views in relation to the main or fundamental
doctrines of Christianity. An admission concern-
ing some trivial question connected with Christian-
ity has been tortured to convey the idea that he
accepted the whole system.
A prominent and respected citizen of Springfield,
a gentleman whose name has, as yet, not been men-
tioned in connection with this controversy, had a
conversation with Mr. Edwards relative to this sub-
ject, soon after Reed's lecture was published, and,
as the result of that conversation, he writes as fol-
lows : " Mr. Edwards was not as good a witness on
oral examination as he was in print."
The letter of Mr. Edwards is dated Dec. 24, 1872.
On Jan. 6, 1873, the letter of Thomas Lewis was
written. After two weeks of arduous labor, Reed,
it seems, succeeded in finding one witness in Spring-
field who was prepared to corroborate the testimony
of Edwards Thomas Lewis.
In a lecture on Lincoln which appeared in the
ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
State Register, of Springfield, Mr. Herudon disposed
of this witness as follows :
" Mr. Lewis's veracity and integrity in this com-
munity need no comment I Lave heard good men
say they would not believe his word under any cir-
cumstances, especially if he were interested. I hate
to state this of Tom, but if he will obtrude himself
in this discussion, I cannot help but say a word in
self-defense. Mr. Lincoln detested this man, I know.
The idea that Mr. Lincoln would go to Tom Lewis
and reveal to him his religious convictions, is to me,
and to all who know Mr. Lincoln and Tom Lewis, too
The introduction of this Lewis as a witness dem-
onstrates the paucity of evidence to be obtained on
this side of the question among Lincoln's neighbors.
Reed, living in a city of twenty thousand inhabitants,
many of them the personal friends of Abraham Lin-
coln, after a vigorous search for evidence, is able
only to present this pitiable apology.
I have reason to believe that the letters of Ed-
wards and Lewis were drafted, not by the persons
whose signatures they bear, but by the Rev. J. A.
We come next to the testimony of Noah Brooks.
Mr. Edwards, supported by Mr. Lewis, states that
Lincoln was converted soon after Dr. Smith located
at Springfield, and about the time of his son Eddie's
WAS WE A CHRISTIAN? 61
death. Dr. Smith came to Springfield ill 1848, and
Eddie died toward the close of the same year. Dr.
Smith, in his letter, does not state when Lincoln's
conversion took place, but it is understood from
other sources that he claimed that it occurred about
the year 1858. Mr. Brooks, in his letter to Dr. Keed,
says : " Speaking to rne of the change which had
come upon him, he said, while he could not fix any
definite time, yet it was after he came here [Washing-
ton], and I am very positive that in his own mind he
identified it with about the time of Willie's death."
Willie's death occurred in February, 1862, nearly
fourteen years after the death of Eddie, and four
years after Smith claimed to have converted Lincoln.
Thus it will be seen that these witnesses nullify each
other. The testimony of each is contradicted and
refuted by the testimony of the other two. Mr.
Edwards says that Lincoln was converted in 1848.
This is contradicted by the testimony of both Smith
and Brooks. According to Dr. Smith his conversion
happened about 1858. This is contradicted by the
testimony of both Edwards and Brooks. Mr. Brooks
is quite positive that it took place about the time of
Willie's death, in 1862. This, in turn, is contra-
dicted by the testimony of both Edwards and Smith.
If Mr. Edwards is right, both Dr. Smith and Mr. Brooks
are wrong. If Dr. Smith is correct, both Mr. Ed-
wards and Mr. Brooks are incorrect. If Mr. Brooks
62 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
has stated the truth both Mr. Edwards and Dr.
Smith have stated falsehoods.
The testimony of these witnesses does not
strengthen Reed's case, but weakens it. The testi-
mony of two of them is self-evidently false, and this
is a sufficient reason for doubting the truthfulness
of the third. Had the evidence of neither Edwards
nor Smith been invalidated by the evidence of the
others, the fact that Lincoln is so generally conceded
to have been an unbeliever up to the time that he
became President, would render it unworthy of con-
sideration. The testimony of Brooks alone demands
notice. Did Lincoln change his belief after he left
Springfield and went to Washington ? The evidence
upon this point is decisive.
The man who stood nearest to President Lincoln
at Washington nearer than any clergyman or news-
paper correspondent was his private secretary,
Col. John G. Nicolay. In a letter dated May 27,
1865, Colonel Nicolay says :
"Mr. Lincoln did not, to my knowledge, in any
way change his religious ideas, opinions, or beliefs
from the time he left Springfield to the day of his
In a letter to his old friend, Judge Wakefield,
written after Willie's death, he declared that his
earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian
scheme of salvation, and the human origin of the
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 63
Scriptures, had become clearer and stronger with
advancing years, and he did not think he should
ever change them.
After his assassination Mrs. Lincoln said : " Mr.
Lincoln had no hope and no faith in the usual ac-
ceptance of these words." His lifelong friend and
executor, Judge David Davis, affirmed the same :
"He had no faith in the Christian sense of the
term." His biographer, Colonel Lamon, intimately
acquainted with him in Illinois, and with him during
all the years that he lived in Washington, says :
"Never in all that time did he let fall from his lips
or his pen an expression which remotely implied
the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and
the Savior of men."
Why do the statements of these witnesses, Smith,
Edwards, and Brooks, not agree respecting the date
of Lincoln's conversion? When their testimony
was given, Smith was in Scotland, Edwards was in
Illinois, and Brooks was in New York.
If he was converted, why was the fact not revealed
before his death ? Why did these men wait until
he died to make these statements to the world?
I Simply because the dead can make no reply.
Had Lincoln been converted, the news would have
been wafted on the wings of lightning from one end
of the continent to the other. It would have been
published in every newspaper ; it would have been
64 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
proclaimed from every pulpit ; it would have been a
topic of conversation at every fireside. When Henry
Wilson, a man of far less note than Lincoln, was con-
verted to Christianity, the fact was heralded all over
Lincoln's home was twice visited by death during
his lifetime, and both occasions have been seized
upon to assert that he experienced a change of heart.
The death of a beloved child is no common sorrow,
and the womanly tenderness of Lincoln's heart made
it doubly poignant to him. " When death entered
his household," says his friend, George W. Julian,
" his sorrow was so consuming that it could only be
measured by the singular depth and intensity of his
love." That Mr. Edwards and Mr. Brooks did each
observe a change in the demeanor of the grief-
stricken father, following the sad events referred to,
is not improbable. But a manifestation of sorrow is
no proof of a theological change.
Three of Reed's witnesses remain three clergy-
men Dr. Sunderland, Dr. Miner, and Dr. Gurley.
Dr. Sunderland is a man of distinction. He has had
the honor of praying for the United States Senate
and officiating at the marriage of a President. Yet,
distinction is not always the badge of honesty.
W. H. Burr, a literary gentleman, of Washington,
writing to a Boston paper in 1880, paid the following
tribute to Dr. Sunderland's veracity : " He can prob-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
ably put more falsehood and calumny in a page of
foolscap than any priest out of prison."
Mr. Sunderland called upon the President in 1862.
In his letter to Heed he says : " For one half hour
[he] poured forth a volume of the deepest Christian
philosophy I ever heard." Notwithstanding ten
years had elapsed since that visit, he proceeded to
give from memory a verbatim report of Lincoln's
remarks. The report is too long to reproduce in
this work, and even if correct, would add but little
to the weight of Christian evidence already pre-
sented. It is merely an ethical discourse, and aside
from a few indirect admissions in favor of Christian-
ity for which Sunderland doubtless drew upon his
imagination, there is nothing that Paine or any other
Deist might not with propriety have uttered. Those
who wish to peruse Mr. Suuderland's letter will find
it in Scribner's Monthly for July, 1873.
Dr. Miner, like Dr. Sunderland, had a quiet chat
with the President, and what was said he assures us
is too deeply engraved on his memory ever to be
effaced. But, unlike Dr. Sunderland, he does not
favor us with a transcript of it. He does not repeat
a word that was uttered. He states, however, that,
* If Mr. Lincoln was not really an experimental
Christian, he was acting like one." But how does an
experimental Christian act ? If he behaves himself,
if he is intelligent and honest, his actions are not
66 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
materially different from those of a good Freethinker.
Dr. Miner did not believe that Lincoln was an ex-
perimental Christian, and in his article there is an
implied admission that he knew nothing about his
He says that, " Like the immortal Washington, he
believed in the efficacy of prayer." The comparison
is happily drawn. Lincoln probably did believe as
much in the efficacy of prayer as Washington ; that
is to say, he did not believe in it at all, in the evan-
gelical sense. There is no evidence that Washing-
ton believed in prayer, no proof that he ever ut-
tered a prayer. That story about his praying at
Valley Forge is as truly a myth as the story about
the hatchet. The Rev. E. D. Neill, an eminent
Episcopal minister, and a relative of the person who
is reported to have seen Washington engaged in
prayer, pronounces it a fiction.
Dr. Gurley is represented as saying : " I con-
sidered him sound not only on the truth of the
Christian religion, but on all its fundamental doc-
trines and teachings." This, remember, is from a
Calvinistic standpoint. Lincoln, then, not only ac-
cepted Christianity, but its most ultra variety Cal-
vinism. He believed in original sin, predestination
(including infant damnation), particular redemption,
irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.
Because he sometimes went with his wife to the
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 67
Presbyterian church, of which she was an adherent,
the priests of this denomination have the contempt-
ible assurance to assert that he was a rigid Calvin-
When he died Dr. Gurley, being Mrs. Lincoln's
pastor, delivered the funeral oration in Washington.
In that oration Dr. Gurley did not affirm that Lin-
coln was a Christian, a thing he would not have
failed to do had it been true. Long after Lincoln's
death, Dr. Gurley, if Eeed has correctly reported
him, makes a statement that he had not the courage
to make over his dead body.
A reputable Christian gentleman, of Springfield,
who desires to have his name withheld from the
public, declares that Dr. Gurley knew and admitted
that Lincoln was a disbeliever in Christianity.
It is quite probable that Gurley did not state in
full what Eeed reports him to have stated. A man
who can take up his pen and at one sitting indite a
score Of falsehoods and misrepresentations, as Eeed,
on a subsequent occasion, is shown to have done,
can not be relied upon for accuracy as a reporter.
The reader has doubtless not failed to notice the
introduction of a claim by Eeed to the effect that
Lincoln at the time of his assassination was intend-
ing to unite with the church. That the idea was
suggested by Eeed is shown by the fact that no less
than three of these witnesses, including Eeed, allude
68 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
to it. Reed says : " While it is to be regretted that
Mr. Lincoln was not spared to indicate his religious
sentiments by a profession of his faith in accordance
with the institutions of the Christian religion, yet it
is very clear that he had this step in view." Dr.
Gurley is made to say : " It was his intention soon
to make a profession of religion." Mr. Brooks says :
" I absorbed [the porosity of some of these witnesses
is remarkable] the firm conviction that Mr. Lincoln
. . . was seriously considering the step which
would formally connect him with the visible church
This dernier resort of an argument has been re-
peated respecting nearly every notable person who
has diecf outside of the church. Soon after the pub-
lication of Reed's lecture, the New York World con-
tained the following pertinent answer to this stale
" It is admitted by Mr. Reed and everybody else
that Mr. Lincoln was a working Infidel up to a very
late period of his life, that he wrote a book and
labored earnestly to make proselytes to his own
views, that he never publicly recanted, and that he
never joined the church. Upon those who, in the
face of these tremendous facts, allege that he was
nevertheless a Christian lies the burden of proof.
Let them produce it or forever hold their peace. In
the mean time it is a sad and puerile subterfuge to
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 69
argue that he would have been a Christian if he had
lived long enough, and to lament that he was not
* spared ' for that purpose. He had been spared
fifty-six years and surrounded by every circumstance
that might soften his heart and every influence that
might elevate his faith. If he was at that late, that
fatal hour standing thus gloomily without the pale,
what reason have we to suppose that he intended ever
Reed speaks of " the poverty of his early religious
instruction," apparently forgetting that he was raised
by Christian parents. His father was a church-
member, his mother was a church-member, and his
stepmother was a church-member. Reed states,
also, that the books he read were all of an anti-
religious character. Holland, on the contrary, de-
clares that better books than those he read could
not have been chosen from the richest library. The
fact is, Abraham Lincoln did not become an Infidel
to Christianity from a lack of knowledge respecting
its claims. He thoroughly examined its claims, and
rejected them because he found them untenable.
One important feature of this subject Reed has
either inadvertently omitted or purposely ignored,
and that is in regard to the validity of the Bateman
story. As the result of previous controversy this
evidence had been rendered valueless. Lincoln's
partner had declared it to be false, had asserted that
70 ABRAHAM LINCOLN!
Mr. Bateman in private conversations acknowledged
it to be in part untrue, and announced his readiness
to substantiate his assertions if Mr. Bateman could
be prevailed upon to permit the publication of his
notes of these conversations taken at the time. If
Mr. Herndon's affirmations were true, it destroyed
the testimony of Holland and Bateman ; if untrue,
it challenged Mr. Bateman to reaffirm the state-
ments recorded bv Holland, and allow the seal of
privacy to be removed from his conversations on the
subject. Why did Mr. Reed not rehabilitate this
damaged evidence? Did he forget it? No, it is
plainly evident that he did not dare to attempt it.
In reviewing this Calvinistic coterie of witnesses
(they are all Calvinists, and nearly all Presbyterians),
one is struck with the formidable display of theo-
logical appendages. What an imposing array of
D.D.'s ! Rev. J. A. Reed, D.D.! Rev. James Smith,
D.D.! Rev. Byron Sunderland, D.D.! Rev. Mr.
Miner, D.D.! Rev. Mr. Gurley, D.D.! It was a
desperate case divinity was sick and needed doc-
toring. The doctors of divinity were accordingly
called in, and prescribed " The Later Life and Re-
ligious Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln," after which
it was supposed that divinity would recover. He
may be better, but it is painfully apparent that some
of these D.D.'s are themselves sadly in need of a
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 71
REVIEW OF CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY ARNOLD AND OTHER
Arnold's Life of Lincoln " Claims Concerning Lincoln's Religious
Belief Address to Negroes of B Utirnore Carpenter Hawley Willet*
Pious Nurse Western Christian Advocate Illinois Clergyman
Barrows Vinton Simpson.
WITH the Christian masses whose minds have be-
come warped by the bigoted teachings of their cler-
ical leaders, nothing affects the reputation of a man
so much as his religious belief. Public men who are
disbelievers are fully cognizant of this, and generally
refrain from expressing sentiments that would tend
to alienate those upon whom the retention of their
positions depends. Biographers understand this,
too, and are likewise aware that a dead Infidel is as
cordially hated as a live one. They know that a
cold reception awaits their works unless they are
able to clothe the characters of their subjects in the
robes of popular superstition. Mr. Arnold realized
this when he wrote his "Life of Lincoln." He had
been most forcibly reminded of the fact by the fate
of two biographies of his own subject which had
72 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
already appeared Holland's and Lamon's. Hol-
land's work by catering to popular prejudice, regard-
less of truth, had been financially a success; Lamon's
work by adhering to truth, regardless of popular
prejudice, had been financially a failure.
Determined to profit by these examples, and in-
timidated by the threats and entreaties of those who
had resolved to secure for Christianity the influence
of the Great Emancipator's name, Arnold dare not
give the facts regarding Lincoln's religious belief.
Nor is it to be presumed that he desired to. He had
previously appeared as a special pleader for the pop-
He affirms that " No more reverent Christian than
Lincoln ever sat in the Executive chair, not except-
ing Washington." The fact is, when Arnold wrote
his biography of Lincoln, no very reverent Christian
ever had occupied the Executive chair. Previous to
the installation of Gen. B. H. Harrison no real
orthodox Christian communicant had held the office
If Mr. Arnold knew no more about Lincoln's
religion than he appears to have known about Wash-
ington's, a more charitable reason than those sug-
gested might be assigned for his statements concern-
ing the former. Washington, like Lincoln, has been
claimed by the church ; yet, Washington, like Lin-
coln, was a Deist. This is admitted even bv the
' ~ .
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 73
leading churchmen of his day. Three of the most
eminent divines of his age, and the three to whom he
was most intimately related in a social way, were
Bishop White, Eev. Dr. Abercrombie, and Kev. Dr.
Ashbel Green. Bishop White declares that Wash-
ington was not a communicant, as claimed by some,
and intimates that he was a disbeliever. The Eev.
Dr. Abercrombie, whose church he attended while
he was President, said : " Washington was a
Deist.*' The Kev. Dr. Ashbel Green, chaplain to
Congress during his administration, said : " Like
nearly all the founders of the Republic, he was not
a Christian, but a Deist."
Arnold presents the following as the basis of Lin-
coln's religion, and proofs of his Christianity : "(1)
Belief in the existence of God, (2) in the immortality
of the soul, (3) in the Bible as the revelation of God
to man, (4) in the efficacy and duty of prayer, (5) in
reverence toward the Almighty, and (6) in love and
charity to man."
1. * Belief in the existence of God." This does
not prove a belief in Christianity. The Jew believes
in the existence of God ; the Mohammedan believes
in the existence of God ; the Deistic Infidel believes
in the existence of God.
2. " Belief in the immortality of the soul." That
he believed in the immortality of the soul is a claim
that cannot be clearly established ; and even if it
74 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
could, would not confirm the assumption that he was
a Christian. Deists, many of them, believe in the
doctrine of immortality. Paine believed in immor-
tality ; Voltaire believed in immortality.
3. " Belief in the Bible as the revelation of God to
man." This, if true, would be evidence of his Chris-
tianity ; but, unfortunately for Mr. Arnold's claim,
Lincoln did not entertain this belief.
4. " Belief in the efficacy and duty of prayer."
This, in the orthodox sense of these terms, is not
true ; and if it were, would not furnish conclusive
evidence that he was a Christian. Jews pray ; Mo-
hammedans pray ; Buddhists pray ; some Deists
pray. Franklin believed in the efficacy and duty of
prayer, and Franklin was an Infidel.
5. "Belief in reverence to the Almighty." This
does not demonstrate a belief in Christianity, for all
Deists believe in reverence to the Almighty.
6. " Belief in love and charity to man." When it
can be shown that only Christians believe in love
and charity, then will it be time to affirm that Lin-
coln was a Christian.
Arnold confounds Christianity with Deism. In
the following words he admits that Lincoln was
simply a Deist : "Not orthodox, not a man of creeds,
he was a man of simple trust in God."
When the subject of Lincoln's belief was once
mentioned to Mr. Arnold, he said : " Lincoln was a
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 75
rational Christian because he believed in morality."
With equal propriety one might say of an upright
Christian, " He is a rational Freethinker because he
believes in morality."
" His reply to the Negroes of Baltimore," he says,
" ought to silence forever those who charge him with
unbelief." This alleged reply of Lincoln was as fol-
" In regard to the Great Book I have only to say
that it is the best gift which God has given to man.
All the good from the Savior of the world is com-
municated to us through this book. But for this
book we could not know right from wrong. All
those things desirable to man are contained in it '
(Lincoln Memorial Album, p. 340).
The writer of this was in Washington when the
colored deputation from Baltimore presented the
President with a $500 Bible. The papers mentioned
the fact at the time, but no such speech as Lincoln
is said to have made appeared in the reports. About
two months later, this apocryphal version of his re-
marks on the occasion referred to, made its appear-
The first two sentences contained in this speech
(the only part of it that Arnold has quoted), Lincoln,
if a Christian, might have uttered. They are words
that any intelligent Christian might, from his stand-
point, with propriety affirm. We are familiar with
76 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
these claims. We are also familiar with the claims
embodied in the last two sentences. Thev are re-
peatedly made. But they are made only by very
ignorant persons, or by clerical hypocrites who try
to impose upon the ignorance and credulity of their
hearers. Had Lincoln been a Christian he would
not have used these words, because he was too in-
telligent to believe them, and too honest to pretend
to believe them.
Concerning this speech, Lincoln's partner, Mr.
Herndon, thus vigorously, yet truthfully, remarks :
"I am aware of the fraud committed on Mr. Lin-
coln in reporting some insane remarks supposed
to have been made by him, in 1864, on the presenta-
tion of a Bible to him by the colored people of Balti-
more. No sane man ever uttered such follv, and no
sane man will ever believe it. In that speech Mr.
Lincoln is made to say : * But for this book we could
not know right from wrong.' Does any human being
believe that Lincoln ever uttered this ? What did
the whole race of man do to know right from wrong
during the countless years that passed before this
book was given to the world ? How did the strug-
gling race of man build up its grand civilizations in
the world before this book was given to mankind?
What do the millions of people now living, who
never heard of this book, do to know how to dis-
tinguish right from wrong ? Was Lincoln a fool, an
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 77
ass, a hypocrite, or a combination of them all ? or is
this speech this supposed this fraudulent speech
a lie ?"
Arnold would have his readers believe that this
speech is genuine. And yet it is plainly evident
that he himself does not believe it. He mutilates it
by omitting the more orthodox portion of it the
very portion he would have retained had he believed
it to be genuine. The first part would suffice to
serve his purpose ; the remainder he knew was too
incredible for belief and would stamp the whole as a
Arnold says : " The veil between him and the
supernatural was very thin." Yes, so thin that he
easily saw through it and recognized the greater
part of it to be a sham.
" His faith in a Divine Providence began at his
mother's knee, and ran through all the changes of
his life." I do not desire to charge Mr. Arnold with
plagiarism, but the foregoing recalls the following
much admired passage to be found in Holland :
" This unwavering faith in a Divine Providence
began at his mother's knee, and ran like a thread of
gold through all the inner experiences of his life "
(Life of Lincoln, pp. 61, 62).
There is much in Arnold's biography, aside from
the above, to suggest that Holland's work formed
the basis and model of his own. While more accu-
78 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
rate in the main than Holland's "Life," Arnold's
"Life" is in some respects equally unreliable, and
Adverting to the many fraudulent stories that have
been circulated concern-ing Lincoln, in an address
delivered in London, Mr. Arnold said : " The news-
papers in America have always been full of Lincoln
stories and anecdotes, some true and many fabulous."
Unfortunately for the cause of truth, Mr. Arnold has
himself recorded some of these fabulous stories, not
because he deemed them authentic, but because they
agreed with his preconceived prejudices, or the
prejudices of those whom he wished to please.
Mr. Carpenter says : " I would scarcely have called
Mr. Lincoln a religious man, and yet I believe him
to have been a sincere Christian."
In a letter, Mr. Herndon makes the following cor-
rection in regard to his friend Carpenter's state-
" Mr. Carpenter has not expressed his own ideas
correctly. To say that a man is a Christian and yet
not a religious man is absurd. Religion is the generic
term including all forms of religion ; Christianity is
a specific term representing one form of religion.
Carpenter means to say that Mr. Lincoln was a
religious man but not a Christian, and this is the
It is unfortunate that while in many cases we
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 79
have several words to express the same idea, the
same word in many cases is employed to express
different ideas. Ideas thus become confused. If
the terms morality, religion, and Christianity, were
always used in their legitimate sense used to ex-
press the ideas of which they were the original signs
much trouble and ambiguity would be avoided.
As it is, they are promiscuously used as interchange-
able terms. Many use the word rdigion and even
Christianity when they mean morality. Mr. Carpen-
ter uses the word religious in its proper sense, and
the word Christian to mean a moral man. The fol-
lowing examples will serve to illustrate the various
forms employed to express the thought now under
" I would scarcely have called Mr. Lincoln a re-
ligious man, and yet I believe him to have been a
sincere Christian." Carpenter.
" I would scarcely have called Mr. Lincoln a
Christian, and yet I believe him to have been a truly
religious man." Herndon.
I would scarcely have called Mr. Lincoln a relig-
ious man, and yet I believe him to have been a truly
moral man. Author.
We all desire to express substantially the same
thought. I do not wish to dictate to Mr. Carpenter
and Mr. Herndon what words they shall employ to
convey an idea, but this explanation is essential to
80 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
a proper understanding of the question in dispute
and will help to reconcile much of the apparently
conflicting testimony presented in this work.
As Lincoln was in a certain sense a Deist, the re-
ligious element was not entirely wanting in him, and
hence the statement of Mr. Herndon that he was a
religious man is, in a degree, true.
The basis of Carpenter's work was a series of
articles contributed to the New York Independent.
When it was decided to publish these in book form,
to swell them into a volume of the desired size, to
his personal reminiscences he added many of the
stories pertaining to Lincoln then going the rounds
of the press. Although he was as it were a member
of Lincoln's household six months he failed to hear
from Lincoln's lips a word expressing a belief in
Christianity. These apocryphal stories, and these
alone, contain all the evidences of Lincoln's alleged
piety to be found in Carpenter's book. And his
admission that Lincoln was not a religious man dis-
Mr. Hawley professed to believe that Lincoln was
a Christian, but he had no personal knowledge of the
fact, although his neighbor for many years. The
only reasons he was able to adduce upon which to
predicate his belief were the Bateman story and his
farewell speech on leaving Springfield. The former
has been exploded, the latter proves nothing.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 81
During all the later 3'ears of his life Lincoln gen-
erally refrained from expressing his anti-Christian
opinions, except to friends who shared his views.
This silence, in connection with his sterling moral
character, might lead some of his Christian neigh-
bors to suppose that he was a believer, the more
especially as Christians are generally ignorant of the
extent of unbelief, and are loath to believe that a
person, unless he openly avows his disbelief, can be
According to Mr. Willets, Lincoln, during the
war, had an attack of what he thought might be a
" change of heart." He consulted a pious lady in
regard to it and requested her to describe to him the
symptoms attending this theological disease. She
defined " a true religious experience " as " a con-
viction of one's own sinfulness and weakness, and
personal need of the Savior for strength and sup-
port." She said that "when one was really brought
to feel his need of divine help, and to seek the aid
of the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance, it was
satisfactory evidence of his having been born again."
Lincoln replied that if what she had told him was
" a correct view of this great subject," he hoped he
was a Christian. But was this a correct view of it ?
I was not aware that conviction constituted con-
version. We have been taught that conviction is but
a preliminary step toward conversion. If Lincoln
relied upon this as a true exposition of this doctrine,
the genuineness of his conversion may well be ques-
It is to be regretted that Mr. Willets did not give
the name of his informant. As it is, we do not know
whether to credit " a lady acquaintance of his," or
himself, with the invention of a first-class fiction.
In regard to the story of the " Pious Nurse," we
have not even a clergyman to vouch for its authen-
ticity. We do not know the name of this witness ;
we do not know whom she communicated the story
to ; we do not know when nor where it made its first
appearance. We only know that for years it has
been floating through the columns of the religious
press, a companion-piece to Washington's devotional
exercise at Valley Forge.
" History," said Napoleon, " is a set of lies agreed
upon." Of the many lies agreed upon by Christian
writers in making up the history of Lincoln, none
has become more thoroughly established than the
one originally published by the Western Christian
Advocate. It has been incorporated into the works
of a score of historians and biographers, and is
almost universally accepted as a historical fact.
Nearly all the pious stories relating to Lincoln,
while palpably false in the eyes of those who knew
him, are yet of such a nature as to render a com-
plete refutation of them extremely difficult. The
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 83
story under consideration, however, is of a different
character. Its truthfulness or falsity could at the
time of its publication have been easily ascertained.
If true, any member of Lincoln's cabinet could have
verified it. I knew that it was untrue at least I
knew that a Cabinet meeting had never been trans-
formed into a prayer meeting at Lincoln's sugges-
tion. I finally resolved to demonstrate its falsity if
possible. But a quarter of a century had passed
away, and every member of Lincoln's Cabinet was
dead save one, Hugh McCulloch, his last Secretary
of the Treasury. With the aid of a friend, Mr. N.
P. Stockbridge, of Ft. Wayne, Ind., an old acquaint-
ance of Mr. McCulloch's, I succeeded in bringing the
matter before this only surviving witness, and re-
ceived from his pen, in February, 1891, the following
prompt denial :
" The description of what occurred at the Execu-
tive Mansion, when the intelligence was received of
the surrender of the Confederate forces, which you
quote from the Western Christian Advocate, is not
only absolutely groundless, but absurd. After I
became Secretary of the Treasury I was present at
every Cabinet meeting, and I never saw Mr. Lincoln
or any of his ministers upon his knees or in tears.
We were not especially jubilant over Lee's sur-
render, for this we had been prepared for some
days. The time for our great rejoicing was a little
84 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
earlier. After Sherman had commenced his cele-
brated march to the sea, and long and weary days
had passed without any reliable reports from him,
we were filled with anxiety and apprehension. It
was when the news came that he and his army, in
excellent condition, were in the neighborhood of
Charleston, that our joy was irrepressible ; not only
because of their safety, but because it was an assur-
ance that the days of the Confederacy were nearly
ended. With Grant before Richmond in command
of superior forces, and Sherman with the finest
arm\ T in the world, ready to move northward, every-
body felt that the war must be soon concluded, and
that the Union was safe.
"We were, of course, happy when General Lee
and his severely tried soldiers laid down their arms,
but this, as I have said, was not unexpected. It was
when our anxiety in regard to Sherman was suc-
ceeded by hopefulness and confidence that our joy
became exuberant. But there was no such exhibi-
tion of it as has been published by the Advocate."
An "Illinois Clergyman " reports Lincoln as say-
ing that when he left Springfield he was not a Chris-
tian, that when his son Willie died he was not a
Christian, but that when he visited the battlefield of
Gettysburg he gave his heart to Christ. Christians
cite the testimony of this anonymous witness, seem-
inglv unconscious of the fact that if true it refutes
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 85
the testimony of every other Christian witness. If
this statement be true what becomes of the testi-
mony of Holland and Bateman? What becomes of
the testimony of Reed's witnesses ? The testimony
of Brooks invalidated the testimony of every other
witness ; the testimony of this Illinois clergyman
invalidates the testimony of Brooks itself.
Eeed did not present this evidence, doubtless
aware that his lecture already coutained a sufficient
number of discrepancies. He was thoughtful enough,
however, to anticipate it. He had Dr. Gurley refer
to Lincoln's conversion as taking place "after the
death of his son Willie and his visit to the battle-
field of Gettysburg." These events are referred to
as if they occurred in close proximity to each other ;
whereas the death of Willie occurred during the
first year of his administration, his visit to Gettys-
burg less than seventeen months before his assassi-
The passage quoted from Dr. Barrows contains
six specific affirmations.
1. " In the anxious uncertainties of the great war,
he gradually rose to the hights where Jehovah be-
came to him the sublimest of realities, the ruler of
Collect all the utterances of Abraham Lincoln, all
the letters he ever wrote, all the speeches he ever
delivered, all the state papers he gave to the public ;
86 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
and from this full store of words that fell from his
lips and flowed from his pen, I challenge Dr. Bar-
rows to produce one word expressing a recognition
of Jehovah. Jehovah was to him, not " the sublim-
est of realities," not " the ruler of nations," but a
hideous phantom. He recognized a God, but his
God was not Jehovah, the God of Dr. Barrows.
2. " When he wrote his immortal Proclamation, he
invoked upon it not only * the considerate judgment
of mankind,' but ' the gracious favor of Almighty
When he wrote his immortal Proclamation he did
not invoke " the gracious favor of Almighty God."
This instrument, as drafted by Lincoln, contained no
allusion to God. The paragraph containing the
words quoted was drafted by Secretary Chase and
inserted in the Proclamation at his urgent request
after it was printed and ready for delivery.
3. " When darkness gathered over the brave
armies fighting for the nation's life, this strong man,
in the early morning, knelt and wrestled in prayer
with Him who holds in his hand the fate of em-
A " Christian lady from Massachusetts" (name un-
known), and a Christian gentleman from New York
(Noah Brooks), declare that Lincoln was accustomed
to pray. This declaration is echoed by Arnold, and
reechoed by Barrows. If true, is it not strange that
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 87
a hospital nurse and a newspaper reporter were in
possession of the fact while his most intimate friends
were entirely ignorant of it ?
4. " When the clouds lifted above the carnage of
Gettysburg, he gave his heart to the Lord Jesus
This is the fifth time that Lincoln gave his heart
to Christ. The above statement is the vital one in
Dr. Barrows's testimony the keystone in the arch
comprising " the religious aspects ' of Lincoln's
Presidential career. The others, even if true, only
prove a Theistic belief. This statement affirms that
he became a Christian a statement evidently based
upon the anonymous story of the "Illinois clergy-
man." Between the original presented by the " Illi-
nois clergyman " at large, and that presented by the
Illinois clergyman from Chicago, however, a grave
discrepancy appears. From the time that il the
clouds lifted above the carnage of Gettysburg " to
the time that Lincoln visited its cemetery, a period
of twenty weeks had elapsed. Now, did Lincoln
give his heart to Christ when the battle ended on
the 3rd of July, as stated by the one, or not until
he stood upon the battle-field on the 19th of Novem-
ber, as asserted by the other ? This is a question
that we leave for the Illinois clergymen themselves
5. When he pronounced his matchless oration on
88 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
the chief battle-field of the war, he gave expression
to the resolve that * this nation, under God, should
have a new birth of freedom.'
This simple Deistic phrase, " under God," is the
only utterance of a religious character to be found in
that oration. When this speech was delivered, Lin-
coln, it is claimed, had experienced a change of heart,
and consecrated himself to Christ. This address
furnishes an overwhelming refutation of the claim.
At the dedication of a cemetery, surrounded by
thousands of graves, he ignores Christianity, and
even the doctrine of immortality.
6. "And when he wrote his last Inaugural Ad-
dress, he gave to it the lofty tone of an old Hebrew
This is true ; and it is likewise true that in that
document he made no more reference to Christianity
than did the Hebrew psalmist who lived and wrote
a thousand years before it had its birth.
The " Lincoln Memorial Album," in which Dr.
Barrows's article appears, contains the offerings of
two hundred contributors, twenty of them divines,
and among them Lyman Abbot, Dr. Bellows, Theo-
dore L. Cuyler, Robert Collyer, Bishop Coxe, Dr.
Crosby, Bishop Haven, Philip Schaaf, and Bishop
Simpson. The work is prefaced with a biographical
sketch of Lincoln, written by Isaac N. Arnold, in
which he makes substantially the same statements
WAS HE A CHKISTIAN? 89
regarding Lincoln's belief as those made in his
"Life of Lincoln." Aside from this, Dr. Barrows is
the only one of these two hundred memorialists who
ventures to affirm that Lincoln was a Christian.
The story of Dr. Yinton, too absurd to demand
serious consideration apparently too incredible for
belief is yet believed by thousands. When such
fabulous tales are told by men who are looked upon
as the exponents of morality, and published in papers
and periodicals that are presumed to be the repos-
itories only of truth, it is not strange that such
stories as Washington's Praying at Yalley Forge,
Ethan Allen and His Daughter, Don't Unchain the
Tiger, Paine's Recanting, and a thousand and one
other pious fictions of a similar character, have
gained popular credence. To read the fabrications
of this class pertaining to Lincoln alone, one would
suppose that this astute statesman, this Chief
Magistrate of a great nation, this Commander-in-
Chief of two millions of soldiers, engaged in the most
stupendous civil conflict the world has known, occu-
pied the greater portion of his time in studying the
Scriptures, poring over doctrinal sermons, partici-
pating in prayer-meetings led by pious nurses, and
weeping upon the necks of clerical visitors.
Bishop Simpson's remarks have been presented,
not because they furnish any proofs of Lincoln's re-
puted Christianity, but because he was one of the
ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
clergymen who officiated at Lincoln's funeral, and
because his words on that occasion have been cited
in support of this claim. But he does not assert
that Lincoln was a Christian. He simply testifies to
his belief and trust in God to his Deistic faith
I am aware that in some of the published reports
of his address there have been interpolated words
intended to convey the idea that Lincoln accepted
Christ. Bishop Simpson, I am sure, never autho-
rized the insertion of these words. They express a
claim he never made a claim he certainly did not
make on the day of Lincoln's interment.
In his funeral address at Washington, Dr. Gurley
did not affirm that Lincoln was a Christian, or that
he was intending to make a profession of religion.
Bishop Simpson, in his oration at Springfield, made
no mention of these claims, and Dr. Gurley and
Bishop Simpson are known to have held a consulta-
tion before that oration was delivered.
This silence is conclusive evidence that these men
knew that Lincoln was an unbeliever. Commenting
on this notable omission, Mr. Herndon says :
" Bishop Simpson delivered the funeral oration,
and in that oration there was not one word about
Mr. Lincoln's Christianity. Bishop Simpson was
Lincoln's friend; Dr. Gurley was Lincoln's pastor
in Washington. Now these men knew, or had reason
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 91
to know, Lincoln's religion, and the world would
have heard of his Christianity on the day of his
burial if it had been known. But Simpson and
Gurley are silent dumb before the Christian world."
One of the most beautiful and exhaustive tributes
ever paid to Lincoln, aside from the matchless
tribute paid by Colonel Ingersoll, is that from the
pen of Bishop Simpson which appears in the " Lin-
coln Memorial Album/' In this tribute he does not
make even the remotest allusion to Lincoln's religious
belief. He appears to have heeded the advice ten-
dered a less discreet Christian writer, and recognized
the fact that, from his standpoint, the less said about
the subject the better. Had all Christians acted as
wisely and as honorably in this matter as Bishop
Simpson, this controversy about Lincoln's religion
would never have arisen.
I have now reviewed the testimony of these wit-
nesses. Tested in the crucible of honest criticism,
little remains of their statements save the dross of
falsehood and error. I may be charged with unjust
severity toward these witnesses, nearly all of whom
are men of recognized respectability and distinction.
But a majority of them have testified to what they
know to be false, and against those who knowingly
bear false witness no censure can be too severe.
Thousands of Christian men and women, misled by
this false testimony, honestly believe and contend
that Lincoln was a Christian. Against these I have
not an unkind word to offer. But I am resolved to
disabuse their minds of this erroneous belief. Pain-
ful as the birth of an unwelcome idea is, they/ shall
know the truth.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 93
TESTIMONY OF HON. WILLIAM H. HERNDON PUBLISHED
Herndon's Association with Lincoln Character Writings Com-
petency as a Witness The Abbott Letter Contribution to the T/iberal
Age Article in the Truth Seeker Herndon's "Life of Lincoln."
HAVING presented and reviewed the evidence in
behalf of the affirmative of this question, the evi-
dence in support of the negative will next be given,
and in consideration of his long and intimate asso-
ciation with Lincoln, and the character and com-
prehensiveness of his testimony, the first to testify
will be Hon. Wm. H. Herndon, of Springfield, HI.
In 1843, Lincoln formed a partnership with Mr.
Herndon in the law business, which existed for a
period of twenty-two years, and was only dissolved
by the bullet of the assassin. The strong attach-
ment that these men had for each other is illustrated
in the following touching incident, related in " The
Everyday Life of Lincoln :"
When he was about to leave for Washington, he
went to the dingy little law office which had shel-
tered his saddest hours. He sat down on the couch
94 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
and said to his law-partner, Herndon, ' Billy, you
and I have been together more than twenty years,
and have never u passed a word." Will you let my
name stay on the old sign till I come back from
Washington?' The tears started to Mr. Herndon's
eyes. He put out his hand. ' Mr. Lincoln/ said he,
* I will never have any other partner while you live ;'
and to the day of the assassination all the doings of
the firm were in the name of * Lincoln & Herndon'
(Everyday Life of Lincoln, p. 377).
Mr. Herndon died in 1891. Though younger than
his illustrious partner, he was at the time of his
death well advanced in years. He had retired from
the active practice of law, and resided at his country
home near Springfield. He was noted for his rugged
honesty, for his broad philanthropy, and for his
strong and original mental qualities. He was one of
the pioneers in the antislavery movement, and one
of the founders of the Republican party. He was
the Republican nominee for Presidential Elector of
the Springfield district when the first Republican
ticket, Fremont and Dayton, was placed in the field.
Governor Bissell, Governor Yates and Governor
Oglesby successively appointed him Bank Commis-
sioner of Illinois. His talents were recognized and
his friendship was sought by many of the most emi-
nent men in the nation. Garrison stopped for weeks
at his home ; Theodore Parker was his guest ; Hor-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 95
ace Greeley was his devoted friend, and Charles
Sumner was his friend and correspondent.
When Lincoln and Herndon were first thrown into
each other's society, Lincoln's mind was dwelling, for
the most part, in the theological (or rather anti-theo-
logical) world, while Herndon's found a most conge-
nial habitation in the world of politics. They were
destined to exercise an important influence in mold-
ing each other's characters. Herndon was indebted
chiefly to Lincoln for the religious views he enter-
tained, while Lincoln was indebted mainly to Hern-
don for the political principles which he finally
espoused. Colonel Lamon, in his " Life of Lincoln,"
gives the following truthful sketch of the character
of the man whom Lincoln made a Deist, and who in
turn made an Abolitionist of Lincoln. Alluding to
the Abolitionists of Illinois, as they appeared in
1854, when Lincoln took his stand on the side of
freedom, Lamon says :
"Chief among them was Owen Lovejoy ; and
second to him, if second to any, was William H.
Herndon. But the position of this latter gentleman
was one of singular embarrassment. According to
himself, he was an Abolitionist ' some time before
he was born,' and hitherto he had made his * calling
and election sure ' by every word and act of a life
devoted to political philanthropy and disinterested
political labors. While the two great national parties
96 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
divided the suffrages of the people, North and South,
everything in his eyes was dead. He detested the
bargains by which those parties were in the habit of
composing sectional troubles, and sacrificing the
principle of freedom. When the Whig party paid
its breath to time, he looked upon its last agonies as
but another instance of divine retribution. He had
no patience with time-servers, and regarded with
indignant contempt the policy which would postpone
the natural rights of an enslaved race to the success
of parties and politicians. He stood by at the sacri-
fice of the Whig party in Illinois with the spirit of
Paul when he held the clothes of them that stoned
Stephen. He believed it was for the best, and hoped
to see a new party rise in its place, great in the
fervor of its faith, and animated by the spirit of
Wilberforce, Garrison, and the Lovejoys. He was a
fierce zealot, and gloried proudly in his title of
' fanatic ;' for it was his conviction that fanatics were
at all times the salt of the earth, with power to save
it from the blight that follows the wickedness of
men. He believed in a God, but it was the God of
Nature the God of Socrates and Plato, as well as
the God of Jacob. He believed in a Bible, but it
was the open scroll of the universe ; and in a religion
clear and well defined, but it was a religion that
scorned what he deemed the narrow slavery of verbal
inspiration. Hot-blooded, impulsive, brave, morally
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 97
and physically, careless of consequences when moved
bv a sense of individual duty, he was the very man
to receive into his inmost heart the precepts of Mr.
Seward's * higher law ' " (Life of Lincoln, pp. 350,
His literary abilities, both as a speaker and as a
writer, were of a high order. He had written a
meritorious work on Mental Philosophy, and a " Life
of Lincoln," which had just been published when he
died. In addition to numerous addresses upon his-
torical, economical, and other subjects he prepared
and delivered several able and interesting lectures
on Lincoln : " Abraham Lincoln and Ann Rutledge,"
a beautiful and touching representation of that
pathetic and romantic love episode which forms one
of the saddest chapters in Lincoln's history ; " The
Analysis of Lincoln's Character," which appears in
the " Lincoln Memorial Album," and " Lincoln's
Religion," which was published in the State Register,
of Springfield, 111.
Carpenter, and in fact nearly every writer on Lin-
coln, has made free use of Herndon's writings.
Carpenter declares that his " masterly ' Analysis of
Lincoln's Character ' has scarcely an equal in the
annals of biographical literature." Both Holland
and Lamon aaknowledge that they were more
deeply indebted to him in the preparation of their
respective works than to any other person. The
98 ABRAHAM LINCOLN !
Petersburg Democrat, published in Menard county,
where Lincoln spent the first years of his manhood,
says : " Mr. Herndon was the law partner of Mr.
Lincoln from 1843 to 1860, and knew his inner life
better than any other man." The Sangamon county
Monitor, of Springfield, where Lincoln lived for a
quarter of a century, says : " Herndon knew Lin-
coln's views better than any man in America."
Judge David Davis, the lifelong friend of Lincoln,
in whose court both Lincoln and Herndon practiced
for years, declared that Herndon knew more about
Lincoln's religion than any other man.
In this chapter will be reproduced the evidence of
Mr. Herndon that has already been made public.
The first elaborate exposition of Lincoln's Free-
thought views was made in 1870, in what is known
as the " Abbott Letter," an article which Mr. Hern-
don by request contributed to the Index, a paper
then published at Toledo, O., and edited by Francis
E. Abbott. The article was extensively copied and
commented upon, and produced a profound sensa-
tion in the religious world, which, to a great extent,
had been misled by such writers as Holland. The
first and more important part of Mr. Herndon's
article will now be presented :
" MR. ABBOTT : Some time since I promised you
that I would send a letter in relation to Mr. Lin-
coln's religion. I do so now. Before entering ou
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
that question, one or two preliminary remarks will
help us to understand why he disagreed with the
Christian world in its principles as well as in its
theology. In the first place, Mr. Lincoln's mind
was a purely logical mind ; secondly, Mr. Lincoln
was a purely practical man. He had no fancy or
imagination, and not much emotion. He was a real-
ist as opposed to an idealist. As a general rule, it
is true that a purely logical mind has not much
hope, if it ever has faith in the unseen and unknown.
Mr. Lincoln had not much hope and no faith in
things that lie outside of the domain of demonstra-
tion ; he was so constituted, so organized, that he
could believe nothing unless his senses or logic
could reach it. I have often read to him a law
point, a decision, or something I fancied. He could
not understand it until he took the book out of my
hand, and read the thing for himself. He was ter-
ribly, vexatiously skeptical. He could scarcely un-
derstand anything, unless he had time and place
fixed in his mind.
" I became acquainted with Mr. Lincoln in 1834,
and I think I knew him well to the day of his death.
His mind, when a boy in Kentucky, showed a certain
gloom, an unsocial nature, a peculiar abstractedness,
a bold and daring skepticism. In Indiana, from 1817
to 1830, it manifested the same qualities or attributes
as in Kentucky : it only intensified, developed itself,
100 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
along those lines in Indiana. He came to Illinois in
1830, and, after some little roving, settled in New
Salem, now in Menard county and state of Illinois.
This village lies about twenty miles northwest of
this city. It was here that Mr. Lincoln became ac-
quainted with a class of men the world never saw
the like of before or since. They were large men
large in body and large in mind ; hard to whip and
never to be fooled. They were a bold, daring, and
reckless sort of men ; they were men of their own
minds believed what was demonstrable ; were men
of great common sense. With these men Mr. Lin-
coln was thrown ; with them he lived, and with them
he moved and almost had his being. They were
skeptics all scoffers some. These scoffers were good
men, and their scoffs were protests against theology
loud protests against the follies of Christianity.
They had never heard of Theism and the newer and
better religious thoughts of this age. Hence, being
natural skeptics, and being bold, brave men, they
uttered their thoughts freely. They declared that
Jesus was an illegitimate child. They were on all
occasions, when opportunity offered, debating the
various questions of Christianity among themselves.
They took their stand on common sense and on their
own souls ; and, though their arguments were rude
and rough, no man could overthrow their homely
logic. They riddled all divines, and not unfrequently
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 101
made them skeptics, disbelievers as bad as them-
selves. They were a jovial, healthful, generous, so-
cial, true, and manly set of people.
" It was here and among these people that Mr.
Lincoln was thrown. About the year 1834 he
chanced to come across Volney's ' Ruins ' and some
of Paine's theological works. He at once seized
hold of them, and assimilated them into his own
being. Volney and Paine became a part of Mr. Lin-
coln from 1834 to the end of his life.
" In 1835 he wrote out a small work on Infidelity,
and intended to have it published. This book was
an attack upon the whole grounds of Christianity,
and especially was it an attack upon the idea that
Jesus was the Christ, the true and only-begotten son
of God, as the Christian world contends. Mr. Lin-
coln was at that time in New Salem, keeping store
for Mr. Samuel Hill, a merchant and postmaster of
that place. Lincoln and Hill were very friendly.
Hill, I think, was a skeptic at this time. Lincoln,
one day after the book was finished, read it to Mr.
Hill, his good friend. Hill tried to persuade him
not to make it public, not to publish it. Hill at that
time saw in Mr. Lincoln a rising man, and wished
him success. Lincoln refused to destroy it said it
should be published. Hill swore it should never
see light of da}^. He had an eye on Lincoln's
popularity his present and future success ; and be-
102 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
lieving that if the book was published it would kill
Lincoln forever, he snatched it from Lincoln's hand
when Lincoln was not expecting it, and ran it into an
old-fashioned tinplate stove, heated as hot as a
furnace ; and so Lincoln's book went up to the
clouds in smoke. It is confessed by all who heard
parts of it that it was at once able and eloquent ;
and, if I may judge of it from Mr. Lincoln's subse-
quent ideas and opinions, often expressed to me and
to others in my presence, it was able, strong, plain,
and fair. His argument was grounded on the
internal mistakes of the Old and New Testaments,
and on reason and 011 the experiences and observa-
tions of men. The criticisms from internal defects
were sharp, strong, and manly.
" Mr. Lincoln moved to this city in 1837, and here
became acquainted with various men of his own way
of thinking. At that time they called themselves
Freethinkers, or free thinking men. I remember all
these things distinctly ; for I was with them, heard
them, and Avas one of them. Mr. Lincoln here found
other works Hume, Gibbon, and others and drank
them in. He made no secret of his views ; no con-
cealment of his religion. He boldly avowed himself
"When Mr. Lincoln was a candidate for our
Legislature, he was accused of being an Infidel and
of having said that Jesus Christ was an illegitimate
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 103
child. He never denied his opinions nor flinched
from his religious views. He was a true man, and
yet it may be truthfully said that in 1837 his religion
was low indeed. In his moments of gloom he would
doubt, if he did not sometimes deny, God.
" Mr. Lincoln ran for Congress against the Rev.
Peter Cartwright in the year 1846. In that contest
he was accused of being an Infidel, if not an Atheist.
He never denied the charge would not ' would die
first.' In the first place, because he knew it could
and would be proved on him ; and in the second
place, he was too true to his own convictions, to his
own soul, to deny it.
" When Mr. Lincoln left this city for Washington,
I knew he had undergone no change in his religious
opinions or views. He held many of the Christian
ideas in abhorrence, and among them there was this
one, namely, that God would forgive the sinner for a
violation of his laws. Lincoln maintained that God
could not forgive ; that punishment has to follow the
sin ; that Christianity was wrong in teaching for-
"From what I know of Mr. Lincoln, and from
what I have heard and verily believe, I can say, first,
that he did not believe in a special creation, his idea
being that all creation was an evolution under law ;
secondly, that he did not believe that the Bible was
a special revelation from God, as the Christian world
104 ABRAHAM LINCOLN!
contends ; thirdly, he did not believe in miracles as
understood by Christians ; fourthly, he believed in
universal inspiration and miracles under law ; fifthly,
he did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the son
of God, as the Christian church contends ; sixthly,
he believed that all things, both matter and mind,
were governed by laws, universal, absolute, and
eternal. All his speeches and remarks in Washing-
ton conclusively prove this. Law was to Lincoln
everything, and special interferences, shams and
In 1874 Mr. Herndon delivered in Springfield a
lecture on "Lincoln's Religion." It was a reply to
Reed's lecture, and was published in the State Reg-
ister, of Springfield. In this lecture he reaffirms the
statements made in the " Abbott Letter," supports
them with substantial arguments and proofs, and
completely overthrows the claims advanced by Reed.
From it I quote the following :
" It is a curious fact that when any man by his
genius, good fortune, or otherwise rises to public
notice and to fame, it does not make much differ-
ence what life he has led, that the whole Christian
world claims him as a Christian, to be forever held
tip to view as a hero and a saint during all the com-
ing ages, just as if religion would die out of the soul
of man unless the great dead be canonized as a
model Christian. This is a species of hero or saint
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 105
worship. Lincoln they are determined *o enthrone
among the saints, to be forever worshiped as such."
" I believe that Mr. Lincoln did not late in life
become a firm believer in the Christian religion.
What! Mr. Lincoln discard his logical faculties and
reason with his heart ? What ! Mr. Lincoln believe
that Jesus was the Christ of God, the true and only
begotten son of him, as the Christian creed contends ?
What! Mr. Lincoln believe that the New Testa-
ment is of special divine authority, and fully and
infallibly inspired, as the Christian contends?
What! Mr. Lincoln abandon his lifelong ideas of
universal, eternal and absolute laws and contend
that the New Testament is any more inspired than
Homer's poems, than Milton's * Paradise Lost,' than
Shakspere, than his own eloquent and inspired
oration at Gettysburg ? What ! Mr. Lincoln believe
that the great Creator had connection through the
form and instrumentality of a shadow with a Jewish
girl ? Blasphemy ! These things must be believed
and acknowledged in order to be a Christian."
'One word concerning this discussion about Mr.
Lincoln's religious views. It is important in this:
1. It settles a historic fact. 2. It makes it possible
to write a true history of a man free from the fear of
fire and stake. 3. It assures the reading public
that the life of Mr. Lincoln will be truly written.
4. It will be a warning forever to all untrue men,
106 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
that the life they have lived will be held up to view.
5. It should convince the Christian pulpit and press
that it is impossible in this day and generation, at
least in America, to daub up sin, and make a hero
out of a fool, a knave, or a villain, which Mr. Lincoln
was not. -Some true spirit will drag the fraud and
lie out to the light of day. 6. Its tendency will be
to arrest and put a stop to romantic biographies.
And now let it be written in history, and on Mr.
Lincoln's tomb: * He died an unbeliever.'
In January, 1883, Mr. Herudon contributed an
article on " Lincoln's Religion" to the Liberal Age,
of Milwaukee. From this article the following ex-
tracts are taken and submitted :
" In 1837, Mr. Lincoln moved to the city of Spring-
field, and there came across many people of his own
belief. Thev called themselves at that time Free-
thinkers. Some of these men were highly educated
and polished gentlemen. Mr. Lincoln read in this
city Hume, Gibbon, and other Liberal books. He
was in this citv from 1837 to 1861, an Infidel Free-
thinker Liberal Free Religionist of the radical
" In his philosophy, he was a realist, as opposed
to an idealist ; he was a sensationalist, as opposed to
an intuitionalist ; and was a materialist as opposed
to a spiritualist."
" Some good men and women say that Mr. Lincoln
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
was a Christian, because he was a moral man. They
say that he was a rational Christian, because he loved
morality. Do not other people, who are not Chris-
tians, love morality? Morality is not Hue test of
Christianity, by any means. If it is the test, then
all moral men, Atheists, Agnostics, Infidels, Moham-
medans, Buddhists, Mormons, and the rest, are
Christians. A rational Christian is an anomaly, an
impossibility ; because when reason is left free, it
demands proofs it relies on experience, observa-
tion, logic, nature, laws. Why not call Mr. Lincoln
a rational Buddhist, a rational Mohammedan, a
rational Confucian, a rational Mormon, for all these,
if true to their faith, love morality."
" Did Mr. Lincoln believe in prayer as a means of
moving God ? It is said to me by Christians, touch-
ing his religion : ' Did not he, in his parting speech
in Springfield, in 1861, say. " I hope you, my friends,
will pray that I may receive," etc.?' and to which I
sa J> yes. In his last Inaugural he said : ' Fondly
do we hope, fervently do we pray.' These ex-
pressions are merely conventional. They do not
prove that Mr. Lincoln believed that prayer is a
means of moving God. . . . He believed, as I
understood him, that human prayer did the prayer
good ; that prayer was but a drum beat the taps of
the spirit on the living human soul, arousing it to acts
of repentance for bad deeds done, or to inspire it to a
108 ABRAHAM LINCOLN !
loftier and a higher effort for a nobler and a grander
"Did Mr. Lincoln, in his said Inaugural, say:
' Both read the same Word of God ?' No, because
that would be admitting revelation. He said : ' Both
read the same Bible' Did Mr. Lincoln say: 'Yet
if God wills that it [the war] continue till all the
wealth piled by the bondman's two hundred and
fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until
every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid
with another drawn by the sword, as ivas said by God
three thousand years ago ?' He did not ; he was
cautious, and said : ' As ivas said three thousand
years ago.' Jove never nods."
A little later Mr. Herndon wrote an article entitled,
" Abraham Lincoln's Religious Belief," which
appeared in the Truth Seeker of New York. From
this article I quote the following passages :
"In 1842 I heard Mr. Lincoln deliver a speech
before the Washingtonian Temperance Society, of
this city. . . . He scored the Christians for the
position they had taken. He said in that lecture
this : 'If they [the Christians] believe, as they pro-
fess that Omnipotence condescended to take on
himself the form of sinful man,' etc. This was
spoken with energy. He scornfully and contempt-
uously emphasized the words as they profess. The
rebuke was as much in the manner of utterance as
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 109
in the substance of what was said. I heard the
criticisms of some of the Christians that night.
They said the speech was an insult and an outrage."
" It is my opinion that no man ever heard Mr.
Lincoln pray, in the true evangelical sense of that
word. His philosophy is against all human prayer,
as a means of reversing God's decrees."
" He has told me often that there was no freedom
in the human will, and no punishment beyond this
world. He denied God's higher law, and wrote on
the margin of a newspaper to his friends in the
Chicago convention in 1860, this : ' Lincoln agrees
with Seward in his irrepressible-conflict idea ; but
he is opposed to Se ward's higher law.' This paper
was handed to Judge Davis, Judge Logan, and other
" Mr. Lincoln and a minister, whose name is kept
in the dark, had a conversation about religion. It ap-
pears that Mr. Lincoln said that when his son bone
of his bone, flesh of his flesh, and blood of his own
heart died, though a severe affliction, it did not
arouse him to think of Christ ; but when he saw the
graves of so many soldiers strangers to him .
. that sad sight aroused him to love Jesus. . .
. It is a fine thing for the reputation of the * Illinois
Clergyman ' that his name is to the world unknown.
It is a most heartless thing, this supposed conversa-
tion of Lincoln with the Illinois clergyman. What !
110 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
Lincoln feel more for the graves of strangers than
for the death of his once living, loving, and lovable
son, now dead, moldering to ashes in the silent
tomb ! The charge is barbarous. To make Lincoln
a lover of Jesus, whom he once ridiculed, this
minister makes him a savage."
" I wish to give an illustration of the uncertainty
and unreliability of those loose things that tioat
around in the newspapers of the day, and how liable
things are to be inaccurate so made even by the
best of men. Mr. Lincoln on the morning he started
for Washington to take the oath of office, and be in-
augurated President of this great Republic, gave a
short farewell address to his old friends. It was
eloquent and touching. That speech is copied in
Holland's * Life of Lincoln/ in Arnold's ' Lincoln
and Slavery/ and in Lamon's ' Life of Lincoln/ and
no two are exactly alike. If it is hard to get the
exact truth on such an occasion as this, how impos-
sible is it to get at Mr. Lincoln's sayings which have
been written out by men weeks and months after
what he did say have passed by ! All these loose
and foolish things that Mr. Lincoln is supposed to
have said are like the cords of driftwood, floating on
the bosom of the groat Mississippi, down to the
great gulf of Forgetfulness. Let them go."
Herndon's "Life of Lincoln," is a most important
contribution to biographical literature. It will
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? Ill
enable the present and future generations to become
better acquainted with Lincoln the man than with
any other prominent American. The author has
performed substantially the same work for Lincoln
that Boswell performed for Johnson ; only he has
performed it more faithfully. Political partisans
and religious bigots may condemn the work, but im-
partial critics are almost unanimous in their praise
The metropolitan journals of Lincoln's and Hern-
don's own state commend the work. The Chicago
Tribune says : " All these loving adherents [of Lin-
coln] will hail Herndon's ' Lincoln ' with unmixed,
unbounded joy." The Chicago Times says : " Hern-
don's * Life ' is the best yet written." The Inter
Ocean says that Herndon " knew more of Lincoln's
inner life than any living man." The Chicago Herald
says : " It enables one to approach more closely to
the great President." The Chicago Evening Journal
says : " It presents a truthful and living picture of
the greatest of Americans."
The Nation thus refers to it : " The sincerity and
honesty of the biographer appear on every page."
The New York Sun says : " The marks of unflinch-
ing veracity are patent in every line." The Wash-
ington Capital says that it places " Lincoln before
the world as he really was." The Commercial
Gazette, of Cincinnati, says : " He describes the life
of his friend Lincoln just as he saw it." The Morn-
ing Call, of San Francisco, affirms that it " contains
the only true history of the lamented President."
The St. Louis Republic says : " It will do more to
shape the judgment of posterity on Mr. Lincoln's
character than all that has been written or will be
In this work Mr. Herndon states in brief the sub-
stance of the articles already quoted in this chapter.
I quote as follows :
" No man had a stronger or firmer faith in Provi-
dence God than Mr. Lincoln, but the continued
use by him late in life of the word God must not be
interpreted to mean that he believed in a per-
sonal God. In 1854 he asked me to erase the word
God from a speech which I had written and read to
him for criticism, because my language indicated a
personal God, whereas he insisted that no such per-
sonality ever existed " (Life of Lincoln, pp. 445, 446).
"The world has always insisted on making an
orthodox Christian of him, and to analyze his
language or sound his belief is but to break the idol '
" The benevolence of his impulses, the seriousness
of his convictions, and the nobility of his character,
are evidences unimpeachable that his soul was ever
filled with the exalted purity and the sublime faith
of natural religion " (Ib.).
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 113
TESTIMONY OF HON. WILLIAM H. HERNDON UNPUBLISHED
Extracts from Herndon's Letters The Books Lincoln Read Hia
Philosophy His Infidelity Refutation of Christian Claims Attempts
to Invalidate Herndon's Testimony Reed's Calumnies Vindication.
IN the preceding chapter has been submitted the
evidence of Mr. Herndon that has already been pub-
lished. In this chapter will be presented some
hitherto unpublished testimony.
The writer corresponded with Mr. Herndon for
many years. Much of this correspondence related to
Abraham Lincoln, and no inconsiderable portion of
it to the subject under consideration. Permission
was granted by Mr. Herndon to use such parts of
this correspondence as may be deemed of value.
The limits of this work preclude the presentation of
much that is really interesting, but no apology is
needed for devoting space to the following extracts
from his letters, written at various intervals between
1880 and 1890 :
'I was the personal friend of Mr. Lincoln from
1834 to the day of his death. In 1843 we entered
114 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
into a partnership which was never formally dis-
solved. When he became unpopular in this Con-
gressional district because of his speeches on the
Mexican war, I was faithful to him. When he
espoused the antislavery cause and in the eyes of
most men had hopelessly ruined his political pros-
pects, I stood by him, and through the press defended
his course. In these dark hours, by our unity of
sentiment and by political ostracism we were driven
to a close and enduring friendship. You should take
it for granted, then, that I knew Mr. Lincoln well.
During all this time, from 1834 to 1862, when I last
saw him, he never intimated to me, either directly or
indirectly, that he had changed his religious opinions.
Had he done so had he let drop one word or look
in that direction, I should have detected it.
" I had an excellent private library, probably the
best in the city for admired books. To this library
Mr. Lincoln had, as a matter of course, full and free
access at all times. I purchased such books as
Locke, Kant, Fichte, Lewes ; Sir Wm. Hamilton's
* Discussions on Philosophy ;' Spencer's ' First
Principles,' * Social Statics,' etc.; Buckle's ' History
of Civilization,' and Lecky's ' History of Rational-
ism.' I also possessed the works of Parker, Paine,
Emerson, and Strauss ; Gregg's * Creed of Christen-
dom,' McNaught on Inspiration, Yolney's ' Ruins,'
Feuerbach's ' Essence of Christianity,' and other
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 115
works on Infidelity. Mr. Lincoln read some of these
works. About the year 1843 he borrowed ' The Ves-
tiges of Creation' of Mr. James W. Keys, of this
city, and read it carefully. He subsequently read
the sixth edition of this work, which I loaned him.
Mr. Lincoln had always denied special creation, but
from his want of education he did not know just
what to believe. He adopted the progressive and
development theory as taught more or less directly
in that work. He despised speculation, especially
in the metaphysical world. He was purely a prac-
tical man. He adopted Locke's notions as his system
of mental philosophy, with some modifications to
suit his own views. He held that reason drew her
inferences as to law, etc., from observation, experi-
ence, and reflection on the facts and phenomena of
nature. He was a pure sensationalist, except as above.
He was a materialist in his philosophy. He denied
dualism, and at times immortality in any sense.
" Before I wrote my Abbott letter I diligently
searched through Lincoln's letters, speeches, state
papers, etc., to find the word immortality, and I could
not find it anywhere except in his letter to his
father. The word immortality appears but once in
' If he had been asked the plain question, * Do
you know that a God exists?' he would have said:
' I do not know that a God exists.' "
116 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
" At one moment of his life I know that he was an
Atheist. I was preparing a speech on Kansas, and
in it, like nearly all reformers, I invoked God. He
made me wipe out that word and substitute the word
Maker, affirming that said Maker was a principle of
the universe. When he went to Washington he did
the same to a friend there."
" Mr. Lincoln told me, over and over, that man
has no freedom of will, or, as he termed it, 'No man
has a freedom of mind.' He was in one sense a
fatalist, and so died. He believed that he was
under the thumb of Providence (which to him was
but another name for fate). The longer he lived the
more firmly he believed it, and hence his oft invoca-
tions of God. But these invocations are no evidence
to a rational mind that he adopted the blasphemy
that God seduced his own daughter, begat a son on
purpose to have mankind kill him, in order that he,
God, might become reconciled to his own mistakes,
according to the Christian view."
"Lincoln would wait patiently on the flow and
logic of events. He believed that conditions make
the man and not man the conditions. Under his
own hand he says : ' I attempt no compliment to my
own sagacity. I claim not to have controled events,
but confess plainly that events have controled me.'
He believed in the supreme reign of law. This law
fated things, as he would express it. Now, how
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
could a man be a Christian could believe that Jesus
Christ was God could believe in the efficacy of
prayer and entertain such a belief?"
"He did not believe in the efficacy of prayer,
although he used that conventional language. He
said in Washington, ' God has his own purposes.'
If God has his own purposes, then prayer will not
change God's purposes."
"I have often said to you, and now repeat it, that
Lincoln was a scientific Materialist, i.e., that this
was his tendency as opposed to the Spiritualistic
idea. Lincoln always contended that general and
universal laws ruled the universe always did do
now and ever will. He was an Agnostic generally,
sometimes an Atheist."
" That Mr. Lincoln was an Infidel from 1834 to
1861, I know, and that he remained one to the day
of his death, I honestly believe. I always under-
stood that he was an Infidel, sometimes bordering
on Atheism. I never saw any change in the man,
and the change could not have escaped my observa-
tion had it happened."
' Lincoln's task was a terrible one. When he took
the oath of office his soul was bent on securing har-
mony among all the people of the North, and so he
chose for his Cabinet officers his opponents for the
Presidential candidacy in order and as a means of
creating a unite.d North. He let all parties, profes-
118 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
sions, and callings have their way where their wishes
did not cut across his own. He was apparently
pliant and supple. He ruled men when men thought
they were ruling him. He often said to me that the
Christian religion was a dangerous element to deal
with when aroused. He saw in the Kansas affairs
in the whole history of slavery, in fact its rigor
and encroachments, that Christianity was aroused.
It must be controled, and that in the right direction.
Hence he bent to it, fed it, and kept it within bounds,
well knowing that it would crush his administra-
tion to atoms unless appeased. His oft and
oft invocations of God, his conversations with
Christians, his apparent respect for Chris-
tianity, etc., were all means to an end. And
yet sometimes he showed that he hated its nasal
"A gentleman of veracity in Washington told me
this story and vouched for its truthfulness : ' A tall
saddle-faced man,' said he, ' came to Washington to
pray with Lincoln, having declared this to be his
intention at the hotel About 10 o'clock A.M. the
bloodless man, dressed in black with white cravat,
went to the White House, sent in his card, and was
admitted. Lincoln glanced at the man and knew his
motives in an instant. He said to him angrily :
"What, have you, too, come to torment me with
your prayers ? ' The man was squelched said, " No,
WAS HE A CHEISTIAN?
Mr. Lincoln " lied out and out. Lincoln spoiled
"Mr. Lincoln was thought to be understood by
the mob. But what a delusion ! He was one of -the
most reticent men that ever lived. All of us Stuart,
Speed, Logan, Matheny, myself, and others, had to
guess at much of the man. He was a mystery to the
world a sphinx to most men. One peculiarity of
Mr. Lincoln was his irritability when anyone tried
to peep into his own mind's laboratory. Consider-
ing all this, what can be thought of the stories about
what he is said to have confided to strangers in
regard to his religion ? "
" Not one of Lincoln's old acquaintances in this
city ever heard of his conversion to Christianity by
Dr. Smith or anyone else. It was never suggested
nor thought of here until after his death."
" I never saw him read a second of time in Dr.
Smith's book on Infidelity. He threw it down upon
our table spit upon it as it were and never opened
it to my knowledge."
' My opinion is, from what I have heard and know,
that these men Gurley and Simpson refused to be
a party to a fraud on the public touching Lincoln's
religion. I think that thev understood each other
the day that the remains of Lincoln were put to
l< Holland came into my office, in 1865, and asked
120 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
me this question : ' What about Mr. Lincoln's Chris-
tianity ? ' To this, I replied : * The less said about
it the better.' Holland then said to me, * Oh, never
mind, I'll fix that,' and went over to Bateman and
had it fixed."
" Lincoln never revealed to Judge Davis, Judge
Matheny, Joshua R Speed, Joseph Gillespie, nor
myself that he was a Christian, or that he had a, I
change of heart, or anything like it, at any time.
Now, taking into consideration the fact that he was
one of the most non-communicative of men that
Bateman was, as it were, a mere stranger to him
that Bateman was frightened, excited, conscience-
smitten when I approached him on the subject, and
that in after years he confessed to me that his notes
in Holland's 'Life of Lincoln' were colored taking
all this into consideration, I say, can you believe
Bateman's story to be true ? "
" I see quoted frequently a supposed speech made
by Mr. Lincoln to the colored people of Baltimore,
on the presentation of a Bible to him. This sup-
posed speech contains the following : ' All the good
from the Savior of the world is communicated to us
through this book.' This idea is false and foolish.
What becomes of nine-tenths of the life of Jesus of
which we have no history nine-tenths of the great
facts of this grand man's life not recorded in this
book? Mr. Lincoln was full and exact in his
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
language. He never used the word Savior, unless in
a conventional sense ; in fact, he never used the word
at all. Again, he is made to say : * But for this book
we could not know right from wrong. 5 The lowest
organized life, I was about to say, knows right from
wrong in its particular sphere. Every good dog that
comes into possession of a bone, knows that that
bone belongs to him, and he knows that it is wrong
for another dog to rob him of it. He protests with
bristling hair and glistening teeth against such dog
robbery. It requires no revelation to teach him
right from wrong in the dog world; yet it requires a
special revelation from God to teach us right from
wrong in the human world. According to this
speech, the dog has the advantage. But Mr. Lincoln
never uttered such nonsense."
" I do think that anyone who knew Mr. Lincoln
his history his philosophy his opinions and still
asserts that he was a Christian, is an unbounded
falsifier. I hate to speak thus plainly, but I cannot
respect an untruthful man."
" Let me ask the Christian claimant a few ques-
tions. Do you mean to say, when you assert that
Mr. Lincoln was a Christian, that he believed that
Jesus was the Christ of God, as the evangelical
world contends ? If so, where do you get your
information? Do you mean to say that Mr. Lincoln
wss a converted man and that he so declared ? If so,
122 ABRAHAM LINCOLN!
where, when, and before whom did he declare or
reveal it ? Do you mean to say that Mr. Lincoln
joined a' church ? If so, what church did he join,
and when did he join it? Do you mean to say that
Mr. Lincoln was a secret Christian, acting under the
cloak of the devil to advance Christianity ? If so,
what is your authority ? If you will tell me when it
was that the Creator caught with his almighty arms,
Abraham, and held him fast while he poured the oil
of grace on his rebellious soul, then I will know
when it was that he was converted from his Infidel
views to Christianity."
" The best evidence this side of Lincoln's own
written statement that he was an Infidel, if not an
Atheist, as claimed by some, is the fact that he never
mentions the name of Jesus. If he was a Christian
it could be proved by his letters and speeches. That
man is a poor defender of a principle, of a person, or
of a thing, who never mentions that principle, person,
or thing. I have never seen the name of Jesus men-
tioned by Mr. Lincoln."
" Mr. Lincoln never mentioned the name of Christ
in his letters and speeches as a Christian. I h^ve
searched for such evidence, but could not find it. I
have had others search, but they could not .find it.
This dead silence on the part of Mr. Lincoln is over-
whelming proof that he was an unbeliever."
"While Lincoln frequently, in a conventional
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
way, appeals to God, he never appeals to Christ nor
mentions him. I know that he at first maintained
that Jesus was a bastard, and later that he was the
son of Joseph and not of God."
" Lincoln was not a Christian in any sense other
than that he lived a good life and was a noble man.
If a good life constitutes one a Christian, then Mill
and a million other men who repudiated and denied
Christianity were Christians, for they lived good and
"If Mr. Lincoln changed his religious views he
owed it to me to warn me, as he above all other men
caused me to be an unbeliever. He said nothing to
me, intimated nothing to me, either directly or in-
directly. He owed this debt to many young men
whom he had led astray, if astray the Christian calls
it. I know of two young men of promise, now dead
and gone gone into endless misery, according to
the evangelical creed caused by Mr. Lincoln's
teachings. I know some of the living here, men
in prominent positions of life, who were made un-
believers by him."
'One by one, these apocryphal stories go by the
board. Courageous and remorseless criticism will
wipe out all these things. There will not be a
vestige of them in fifty years to laugh at or to weep
Mr. Herndon's testimony, even in the absence of
124 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
all other evidence, is concluaive. This was recog-
nized by the Christian claimants after the appear-
ance of his " Abbott Letter." They employed various
measures to break the force of his testimony by
trying to induce him either to retract or modify his
statements. But they were not successful. He was
not to be coaxed, he was not to be purchased, he
was not to be intimidated. He had stated the truth
and by the truth he proposed to stand. Foiled in
these efforts, their last resort was to destroy his
credibility as a witness by destroying his character.
The most brazen falsehoods were invented and the
most cruel calumnies circulated in order to crush
him. Some of these stated that he was a drunkard,
others that he was a pauper, and still others that he
had become insane.
These defamatory statements were usually first
noticed in some religious paper or periodical. From
this they were naturally copied into the secular
papers and sent broadcast over the land. Journalists
who had once known Mr. Herndon, either personally
or by reputation, were surprised and shocked at the
announcements, and wrote articles like the following
which appeared in a Kansas paper :
"Bill Herndon is a pauper in Springfield, 111. He
was once worth considerable property. His mind
was the most argumentative of any of the old lawyers
in the state, and his memory was extraordinary
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
For several years before Lincoln was nominated for
the Presidency, Herndon was in some respects the
most active member of the tirrn, preparing the
greatest number of cases for trial and making elab-
orate arguments in their behalf. It is said that he
worked hard with Lincoln in preparing the memo-
rable speeches delivered by the man who afterward
became President, during the debates between Lin-
coln and Douglas in 1858, and in constructing the
Cooper Institute address delivered by Lincoln a
short time before the war. Herndon, with all his
attainments, was a man who now and then went on
a spree. This habit became worse after Lincoln's
death, and, like poor Dick Yates, he went down step
by step till his old friends and associates point to
him as a common drunkard."
I was in Springfield the very week that this article
was published, and passed a day with Mr. Herndon
at his home. I was prepared to testify, as all his
neighbors were, that the charges it contained, to-
gether with others that were being circulated,
were false. I knew that he still possessed a sound
and vigorous intellect ; I knew that he was in com-
fortable circumstances financially ; I knew that he
was an earnest advocate of temperance, and that he
practiced what he preached ; in short, I knew him
to be a man of pure morals and exemplary character.
At the very time that he was declared to be an in-
ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
mate of the insane asylum, the Old Settlers' Society
selected him to examine and report upon the correct-
ness of the " History of Sangamon County," which,
as it included a history of the capital of the state
where, at one time or another, had resided a major-
ity of Illinois' s most gifted sons, was an important
work, and one whose revision would not likely be
intrusted to a lunatic. At the very time that he
was said to be a pauper in the county poorhouse, he
was entertaining such distinguished guests as
William Lloyd Garrison. At the very time that he
was reported to be a common drunkard, his neigh-
bors had just appointed him guardian of the educa-
tional interests of their children.
All efforts to trace these slanders to their source
and discover their author proved futile until 1880,
when the writer of this saw in an Ohio paper an
article on Lincoln, in which was quoted a portion of
a letter which the contributor of the article stated
had just been received from the Rev. J. A. Reed, of
Springfield. It related wholly to Mr. Herndon, and
did not contain one fair, truthful statement. In
thirty brief lines were concentrated, in addition to
several statements calculated and intended to de-
ceive, no less than sixteen deliberate falsehoods,
some of them of the most cruel and infamous char-
acter. It was evident that Reed had intended that
the substance of his letter should be given to the
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 127
public without disclosing its authorship. But,
thanks to the innocent credulity and indiscreetness
of the friend to whom it was sent, the defamer was
discovered and exposed. And this sneaking, cow-
ardly assassin was the " defender of Lincoln's Chris-
tian faith !" Could the inanimate remains of Abra-
ham Lincoln have been revivified when this ex-
posure was made, he would have arisen from his
mausoleum at Oak Ridge, have come into the city,
and have kicked this pretended "defender," this
base calumniator of his beloved friend and associ-
ate, out of Springfield.
The cause of all the vituperation which for years
had been heaped upon Mr. Herndon was now appar-
ent. He had replied to Reed's lecture, and openly,
honestly, and courteously, but effectively, refuted it :
and because the latter could not come forward with
a successful rejoinder, he was thus heartlessly and
covertly plunging a dagger into the reputation of his
The intercession of friends secured for the culprit
immunity from arrest for libel, but in the newspapers
of his city he received such a castigation as he will
not soon forget. The Daily Monitor, in an editorial
replying to the slanders that were being circulated
concerning Mr. Herndon, said :
' Mr. Herndon is not a pauper, is not a drunkard ;
whisky did not ruin him, and, in a word, the whole
128 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
thing is a lie. Mr. Herndon lives on his farm near
this city. He is a great admirer of nature, loves
flowers, and spends his whole time on the farm, ex-
cept when doing his trading, or coming into the city
to see his children and grandchildren. He don't
drink, he don't chew tobacco, he don't gamble, he is
honorable and truthful, and he is highly respected
by his fellow-citizens. He is a great reader, a great
thinker, loves his neighbors and his neighbors love
him. He has a great, big, kind heart for his fellow-
man in distress, and, while never worth ' consider-
able property,' he has always had enough for his
generous purposes. Just why this thing should be
allowed we are at a loss to know, and have waited to
see if some of those who profess so much of the
Christ-like in their composition would not have
enough of the man-like .to be men, and not allow a
good and true man as Mr. Herndon is to be thus in-
famously maligned and belied by those whose works
in the salvation of men would have more effect if
more akin to Christ in practice."
After a life of honest toil, much of it in behalf of
the poor and the weak, without reward and without
the expectation of reward, to be in his old age thus
shamefully robbed of his good name, was an outrage
almost without a parallel, save in the treatment re-
ceived by Thomas Paine. That Mr. Herndon was
keenly sensitive to this great wrong is disclosed by
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 129
the tone of his letters written at the time. In one
he says : " I have done nothing in the spirit of self-
laudation. I prefer moving down the grooves of
time unnoticed and unknown, except to friends. I
have no ambition for fame or money. My ambition
is to try to do good. I spent ten or more years of
my best life for the negro, liberty, and union, not
forgetting Kansas and her brave people. But let it
all go ; I make no complaint. I try to live a moral
and a manly life, love my fellow man, love freedom,
love justice, and would die for the eternal right."
As an index of public sentiment in the community
where the defamed and the defamer resided, I will
state two facts. On a pleasant September evening,
in 1882. I attended Dr. Reed's church in Springfield.
In that commodious edifice, built to accommodate an
audience of nearly one thousand, I found assembled
to listen to this renowned " defender of Lincoln's
Christian faith," an audience of forty-four persons.
About the same time, in the published report of a
public meeting held near Springfield, appeared the
following : " Five thousand people hovered around
the speaker's stand for the purpose of listening to
the able, eloquent, and well-known Hon. W. H.
It has been charged that Mr. Herndon's statements
concerning Lincoln's unbelief were inspired by a
spirit of revenge in consequence of Lincoln's not
having recognized him with an appointment. This
charge and this assumption are both false. There
is now on file at Washington and at Springfield a
telegram from Lincoln tendering him a judgeship,
which he declined.
To know Lincoln was to love him. None knew
him better than Mr. Herndon, and none entertained
a deeper affection for his memory. In a letter to me,
dated Nov. 4, 1881, he pays this tribute to his dead
"Some people say that Mr. Lincoln was an un-
grateful man. This is not true, and especially when
applied to myself. He was always kind, tender, and
grateful to me clung to me with hooks of steel. I
know that I was true to him. It is said that no man
is great to his valet. If I was Mr. Lincoln's valet,
the rule does not apply in this case, for my opinion
of him is too well known. His was a grand, noble,
true, and manly life. He dreamed dreams of glory,
and glory was justly his. He was growing and ex-
panding to the day of his death. He was slow in
his development, but strong and big when he did
come. The last letter which I ever received from
him concluded thus : ' God bless you, says your
friend. A. Lincoln. 9 He felt what he expressed, and
in return I say, God bless you, Lincoln."
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 131
TESTIMONY OF COL. WARD H. LAMON.
Lamon's " Life of Lincoln " Lincoln's Early Skepticism His Inves-
tigations at New Salem His Book on Infidelity His Religious Opin-
ions Remain Unchanged Holland's Condemnation of Lamon's Work
Holland's and Lamon's Works Compared.
IN 1872, seven years after the President's assassi-
nation, appeared the "Life of Abraham Lincoln,"
written by Col. Ward H. Lamon. As a faithful
record of the life of one of the most sublime char-
acters in the world's history, this work stands un-
rivaled. More accomplished writers have written
biography have written the biography of Lincoln.
But no writer has ever been more thoroughly in-
formed respecting his subject, and no writer has ever
made a more conscientious use of the information in
his possession than has Colonel Lamon in his " Life
of Lincoln." In Illinois he was the friend and con-
fidant of Lincoln. When the time approached for
Lincoln to take the Executive chair, and the journey
from Springfield to Washington was deemed a danger-
ous undertaking, to Colonel Lamon was intrusted the
responsible duty of conducting him to the national
132 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
capital. Daring the eventful years that followed,
he remained at the President's side, holding an im-
portant official position in the District of Columbia.
When Lincoln died, at the great funeral pageant in
Washington, he led the civic procession, and was,
with Major General Hunter and Judge David Davis,
selected to convey the remains to their iinal resting-
place at Springfield.
The following extract, from the preface to his
work, shows what an inexhaustible mine of materials
he had with which to prepare a full and authentic
record of Lincoln's life and character :
"At the time of Mr. Lincoln's death, I determined
to write his history, as I had in my possession much
valuable material for such a purpose. . . . Early
in 1869, Mr. Herndon placed at my disposal his
remarkable collection of materials the richest,
rarest, and fullest collection it was possible to con-
ceive. . . . Mr. Herndon had been the partner
in business and the intimate personal associate of
Mr. Lincoln for something like a quarter of a cent-
ury; and Mr. Lincoln had lived familiarly with
several members of his family long before their
individual acquaintance began. New Salem, Spring-
field, the old judicial circuit, the habits and friends
of Mr. Lincoln, were as well known to Mr. Herndoii
as to himself. With these advantages, and from the
numberless facts and hints which had dropped from
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 133
Mr. Lincoln during the confidential intercourse of an
ordinary lifetime, Mr. Herndon was able to institute
a thorough system of inquiry for every noteworthy
circumstance and every incident of value in Mr.
Lincoln's career. The fruits of Mr. Herndon's
labors are garnered in three enormous volumes of
original manuscripts and a mass of unarranged
letters and papers. They comprise the recollections
of Mr. Lincoln's nearest friends ; of the surviving
members of his family and his family-connections ;
of the men still living who knew him and his parents
in Kentucky ; of his schoolfellows, neighbors, and
acquaintances in Indiana ; of the better part of the
whole population of New Salem ; of his associates
and relatives at Springfield ; and of lawyers, judges,
politicians, and statesmen everywhere, who had any-
thing of interest or moment to relate. They were
collected at vast expense of time, labor, and money,
involving the employment of many agents, long
journeys, tedious examinations, and voluminous
correspondence. Upon the value of these materials
it would be impossible to place an estimate. That
I have used them conscientiously and justly is the
only merit to which I lay claim."
Lamon's evidence concerning Lincoln's unbelief is
complete and unanswerable. He did not present it
because he was himself an unbeliever and wished to
support his views with the prestige of Lincoln's
134 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
great name. While the Freethinker regards Lin-
coln's rejection of Christianity as in the highest
degree meritorious a proof of his strong logical
acumen, his sterling common sense, and his broad
humanity Lam on considered it a grave defect in
his character. He states the fact because it is a fact,
and because the purpose of his work is to disclose
and not conceal the facts of Lincoln's life. If he
devotes considerable space to the subject, and ex-
hibits a special earnestness in its presentation, the
misrepresentations of Lincoln's Christian biogra-
phers have furnished a reasonable pretext for it.
In the pages immediately following will be given
the individual testimony of Colonel Lamon :
"Any analysis of Mr. Lincoln's character would
be defective that did not include his religious opin-
ions. On such matters he thought deeply, and his
opinions were positive. But perhaps no phase of
his character has been more persistently misrepre-
sented and variously misunderstood, than this of his
religious belief. Not that the conclusive testimony
of many of his intimate associates relative to his fre-
quent expressions on such subjects has ever been
wanting; but his great prominence in the world's
history, and his identification with some of the
great questions of our time, which, by their moral
import, were held to be eminently religious in their
character, have led many good people to trace in his
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 135
motives and actions similar convictions to those held
by themselves. His extremely general expressions
of religious faith called forth by the grave exigen-
cies of his public life, or indulged in on occasions of
private condolence, have too often been distorted
out of relation to their real significance or meaning
to suit the opinions or tickle the fancies of individ-
uals or parties.
" Mr. Lincoln was never a member of any church,
nor did he believe in the divinity of Christ, or the
inspiration of the Scriptures in the sense understood
by evangelical Christians " (Life of Lincoln, p. 486).
Holland and other Christian biographers have
represented Lincoln as a youth of extreme piety,
whose constant companion was the Bible. The con-
current testimony of the friends of his boyhood com-
pels Colonel Lamon to affirm that the reverse of this
is true that Lincoln, at an early age, was noted for
his skepticism. He says :
" When a boy, he showed no sign of that piety
which his many biographers ascribe to his manhood.
. . When he went to church at all, he went to
mock, and came away to mimic" (Ibid, pp. 486,
" At an early age he began to attend the ' preach-
ings roundabout, but principally at the Pigeon
Creek church, with a view to catching whatever
might be ludicrous in the preacher's air or matter,
136 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
and making it the subject of mimicry as soon as he
could collect an audience of idle boys and men to
hear him. A pious stranger, passing that way on a
Sunday morning, was invited to preach for the
Pigeon Creek congregation ; but he banged the
boards of the old pulpit, and bellowed and groaned
so wonderfully, that Abe could hardly contain his
mirth. This memorable sermon was a great favor-
ite with him ; and he frequently reproduced it with
nasal tones, rolling eyes, and all manner of droll
aggravations, to the great delight of Nat Grigsby
and the wild fellows whom Nat was able to assem-
ble " (Ib., p. 55).
" His chronicles were many, and on a great variety
of subjects. They were written, as his early ad-
mirers love to tell us, ' in the Scriptural style ;' but
those we have betray a very limited acquaintance
with the model " (Ib., p. 63).
Of his Freethought reading and theological inves-
tigations at New Salem, and his book on Infidelity,
Lamon says :
" When he came to New Salem, he consorted with
Freethinkers, joined with them in deriding the gos-
pel history of Jesus, read Volney and Paine, and then
wrote a deliberate and labored essay, wherein he
reached conclusions similar to theirs. The essay
was burnt, but he never denied or regretted its
composition. On the contrary, he made it the sub-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 137
ject of free and frequent conversations with his
friends at Springfield, and stated, with much par-
ticularity and precision, the origin, arguments, and
objects of the work " (Ib., p. 487).
" The community in which he lived was pre-
eminently a community of Freethinkers in matters
of religion ; and it was then ro secret, nor has it
been a secret since, that Mr. Lincoln agreed with
the majority of his associates in denying to the Bible
the authority of divine revelation. It was his honest
belief, a belief which it was no reproach to hold at
New Salem, Anno Domini 1834, and one which he
never thought of concealing. It was no distinction,
either good or bad, no honor, and no shame. But
be had made himself thoroughly familiar with the
writings of Paine and Yolney the ' Ruins' by the
one, and * The Age of Reason ' by the other. His
mind was full of the subject, and lie felt an itching
to write. He did write, and the result was a little
book. It was probably merely an extended essay,-
but it is ambitiously spoken of as * a book ' by him-
self and by the persons who were made acquainted
with its contents. In this work he intended to
' First, that the Bible was not God's revelation;
Secondlv, that Jesus was not the son of God.'
"' No leaf of this little volume has survived. Mr.
Lincoln carried it in manuscript to the store of Mr.
138 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
Samuel Hill, where it was read and discussed.
Hill was himself an unbeliever, but his son consid-
ered his book * infamous.' It is more than probable
that Hill, being a warm personal friend of Lincoln,
feared that the publication of the essay would some
day interfere with the political advancement of hi?
favorite. At all events, he snatched it out of his
hand, and thrust it into the fire, from which not a
shred escaped " (Ib., pp. 157, 158).
Colonel Lamon is confident that while Lincoln
finally ceased to openly promulgate his Freethought
opinions, he never abandoned them. He says :
" As he grew older, he grew more cautious ; and
as his New Salem associates, and the aggressive
Deists with whom he originally united at Spring-
field, gradually dispersed, or fell away from his side,
he appreciated more and more keenly the violence
and extent of the religious prejudices which freedom
in discussion from his standpoint would be sure to
arouse against him. He saw the immense and
augmenting power of the churches, and in times past
had practically felt it. The imputation of Infidelity
had seriously injured him in several of his earlier
political contests ; and, sobered by age and expe-
rience, he was resolved that that same imputation
should injure him no more. Aspiring to lead relig-
ious communities, he foresaw that he must not
appear as an enemy within their gates ; aspiring to
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
public honors under the auspices of a political
party which persistently summoned religious people
to assist in the extirpation of that which is denounced
as the ' nation's sin,' he foresaw that he could not
ask their suffrages whilst aspersing their faith. He
perceived no reason for changing his convictions,
but he did perceive many good and cogent reasons
for not making them public '" (Ib., pp. 497, 498).
" But he never told anyone that he accepted Jesus
as the Christ, or performed a single one of the acts
which necessarily follow upon such a conviction.
At Springfield and at Washington he was beset on
the one hand by political priests, and on the other
by honest and prayerful Christians. He despised
the former, respected the latter, and had use for
both. He said with characteristic irreverence that
he would not undertake to ' run the churches by
military authority ;' but he was, nevertheless, alive
to the importance of letting the churches ' run '
themselves in the interest of his party. Indefinite
expressions about ' Divine Providence,' the ' Justice
of God,' ' the favor of the Most High,' were easy,
and not inconsistent with his religious notions. In
this, accordingly, Jie indulged freely ; but never in
all that time did he let fall from his lips or his pen
an expression which remote!}' implied the slightest
faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of
men" (Ib., p. 502).
140 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
Lamon was Lincoln's intimate and trusted friend
at Washington, and had he changed his belief, his
biographer, as well as Noah Brooks and the Illinois
clergyman, would have been in possession of the
In 1851 Lincoln wrote a letter of consolation to
his dying father, in which he counseled him to
" confide in our great arid good and merciful Maker."
This letter was given to the public by Mr. Herndon,
and has been cited by the orthodox to prove that
Lincoln was a believer. Adverting to this letter
Lamon says :
" If ever there was a moment when Mr. Lincoln
might have been expected to express his faith in the
atonement, his trust in the merits of a living
Redeemer, it was when he undertook to send a com-
posing and comforting message to a dying man.
. . . But he omitted it wholly. He did not even
mention the name of Jesus, or intimate the most
distant suspicion of the existence of a Christ "
(Ibid., p. 497).
Lincoln's mind was not entirely free from super-
stition, but though born and reared in Christendom,
the superstitious element in his nature was not
essentially Christian. His fatalistic ideas, so char-
acteristic of the faith of Islam, have already been
mentioned by Mr. Herndon, and are thus referred to
by Colonel Lamon :
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 141
" Mr. Lincoln was by no means free from a kind
of belief in the supernatural. . . . He lived
constantly in the serious conviction that he was him-
self tlie subject of a special decree, made by some
unknown and mysterious power, for which he had no
name " (Ibid., p. 503).
" His mind was filled with gloomy forebodings
and strong apprehensions of impending evil, mingled
with extravagant visions of personal grandeur and
power. His imagination painted a scene just be-
yond the veil of the immediate future, gilded with
glory yet tarnished with blood. It was his * des-
tiny ' splendid but dreadful, fascinating but
terrible. His case bore little resemblance to
those of religious enthusiasts like Bunyan,
Cowper, and others. His was more like the de-
lusion of the fatalist conscious of his star" (Ibid,,
When Lamon's work appeared, Holland, backed by
the Christian element generally, fell upon it like a
savage and sought, as far as possible, to suppress it.
Lamon had committed an unpardonable offense. He
had declared to the world that Lincoln had died a
disbeliever, and, what was worse, he had proved it.
Holland's attack was made in an eight-column
review of Lamon's " Life," which was published in
Bcribner's Monthly, for August, 1872. In order to give
an air of candor and judicial fairness to his veno-
142 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
mous criticisms, lie opens with this flattering recogni-
tion of its merits :
" It is not difficult to see how Colonel Lamon, who
during Mr. Lincoln's Presidency held an office in the
District of Columbia, which must have brought him
into somewhat frequent intercourse with the Presi-
dent, and who, indeed, had come with him from
Springfield to the Capital, should feel that there
rested on him a certain biographical duty. And
certainly he was in possession of a mass of material
so voluminous, so original, and so fresh that in this
respect at least his fitness for the work was remark-
ably complete. Moreover, Mr. W. H. Herndon, who
was Mr. Lincoln's partner in the practice of the law at
Springfield, and was, of course, closely intimate with
his partner in a business way, . . . added to
Colonel Lamon's material the valuable documents
which he had himself collected, and the memoranda
which, with painstaking and lawyer-like ability, he
had recorded from the oral testimony of living wit-
" As far as the story of Mr. Lincoln's childhood
and early life is concerned, down to the time when
his political life began, it has never been told so
fully, with such spirit and zest, and with such evi-
dent accuracy, as by Colonel Lamon."
Nearly the entire review is devoted to a denuncia-
tion jf Lamon's exposition of Lincoln's religious
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 143
opinions. He repeatedly pronounces this " an out-
rage on decency," and characterizes Lincoln's Free-
thought companions as " heathen," " barbarians,"
and " savages." The review concludes as follows :
" The violent and reckless prejudice, and the utter
want of delicacy and even of decency by which the
book is characterized, in such instances as this, will
more than counterbalance the value of its new ma-
terial, its fresh and vigorous pictures of Western
life and manners, and its familiar knowledge of the
* inside politics ' of Mr. Lincoln's administration,
and will even make its publication (by the famous
publishers whose imprint imparts to it a prestige
and authority which its authorship would fail to
give) something like a national misfortune. In some
quarters it will be readily received as the standard
life of the good President. It is all the more desir-
able that the criticism upon it should be prompt
Christianity must have the support of Lincoln's
great name. To secure it Holland is willing to mis-
represent the honest convictions of Lincoln's life-
time, to traduce the characters of his dearest friends,
and to rob a brother author and a publisher of their
Lamon states that during the last years of Lin-
coln's life he ceased to proclaim his Infidel opinions
because they were unpopular. Eeferring to this
144 ABRAHAM LINCOLN!
statement, Holland says : " The eagerness with
which this volume strives to cover Mr. Lincoln's
memory with an imputation so detestable is one of
the most pitiable exhibitions which we have lately
This outburst of righteous indignation, coming
from the source it does, is peculiarly refreshing.
To appreciate it, we have only to open Holland's
work, and read such passages as the following : " I
am obliged to appear different to them." " It was
one of the peculiarities of Mr. Lincoln to hide these
religious [Christian] experiences from the eyes of
the world." " Who had never in their whole lives
heard from his lips one word of all these religious
convictions and experiences." " They [his friends]
did not regard him as a religious man." " All this
department of his life he had kept carefully hidden
from them." " There was much of his conduct that
was simply a cover to these thoughts an effort to
conceal them " (Holland's Life of Lincoln, pp. 239,
Consummate hypocrisy in a Christian is all right
with this moralist ; but for a Freethinker to with-
hold his views from an intolerant religious world is
a detestable crime.
As a biographer of Lincoln, Holland possessed
many advantages over Lamon. His work was writ-
ten and published immediately after the awful trag-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 145
edy, when almost the entire reading public was
deeply interested in everything that pertained to
Lincoln's life. So far as Lincoln's religious views
are concerned, he advocated the popular side of the
question ; for while those outside of the church
cared but little about the matter, the church desired
the influence of his great name, and was ready to
reward those who assisted her in obtaining it. Hol-
land, too, had an established reputation as an author
had nearly as large a class of readers as any
writer in this country. His name alone was suffi-
cient to guarantee a large circulation to any book he
might produce. Lamon, on the other hand, pos-
sessed but a single advantage over his rival, that of
having the truth on his side. And while " truth is
mighty," and will in the end prevail, yet how often
is it " crushed to earth " and for the time obscured.
In view of all this, it is not strange that the public
should be so slow to reject the fictions of Holland
and accept the facts of Lamon.
That Lamon's " Life of Lincoln " is wholly unde-
serving of adverse criticism, is not claimed. He
has, perhaps, given undue prominence to some
matters connected with Lincoln's private affairs
which might with propriety have been consigned to
oblivion. A larger manifestation of charity, too, for
the imperfections of those with whom Lincoln
mingled, especially in the humbler walks of life,
146 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
would not have detracted from its merit. And yet,
those who desire to know Lincoln as he really was,
should read Lamon rather than Holland. In
Lamon's work, Lincoln's character is a rugged oak,
towering above its fellows and clothed in nature's
livery ; in Holland's work, it is a dead tree with the
bark taken off, the knots planed down, and
In the New York World appeared the following
just estimate of these two biographies :
" Mr. Ward H. Lamon is the author of one * Life of
Lincoln,' and Dr. J. G. Holland is the author of an-
other. Mr. Lamou was the intimate personal and
political friend of Mr. Lincoln, trusting and trusted,
from the time of their joint practice in the Illinois
Quarter Sessions to the moment of Mr. Lincoln's
death at Washington. Dr. Holland was nothing
to Mr. Lincoln neither known nor knowing. Dr,
Holland rushed his 'Life* from the press before
the disfigured corpse was fairly out of sight, while
the public mind lingered with horror over the details
of the tragedy, and, excited by morbid curiosity,
was willing to pay for its gratification. Mr. Lamon
waited many years, until all adventitious interest
had subsided, and then with incredible labor and
pains, produced a volume founded upon materials
which for their fulness, variety, and seeming authen-
ticity are unrivaled in the history of biographies.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 147
Dr. Holland's single volume professed to cover the
whole of Mr. Lincoln's career. Mr. Lamon's single
volume was modestly confined to a part of it. Dr.
Holland's was an easy, graceful, off-hand perform-
ance, having but the one slight demerit of being in
all essential particulars untrue from beginning to
end. Mr. Lamon's was a labored, cautious, and
carefully verified narrative which seems to have
been accepted by disinterested critics as entirely
"Dr. Holland would probably be very much
shocked if anybody should ask him to bear false
witiiess in favor of his neighbor in a court of justice,
but he takes up his pen to make a record which he
hopes and intends shall endure forever, and in that
record deliberately bears false witness in favor of a
public man whom he happened to admire, with no
kind of offense to his serene and ' cultured ' con-
science. If this were all if Dr. Holland merely
asserted his own right to compose and publish
elaborate fictions ou historical subjects we might
comfort ourselves with the reflection that such
literature is likely to be as evanescent as it is dis-
honest, and let him pass in silence. But this is not
wL He maintains that it is everybody's duty to
help him to deceive the public and to write down
his more conscientious competitor. He turns up
the nose of * culture ' and curls the lip of ' art ' at
ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
Mr. Lamou's homely narrative of facts, and gravely
insists that all other noses and all other lips shall be
turned up and curled because his are. He implores
the public, which he insulted and gulled with his
own book, to damn Mr. Lamon's, and be puts his
request on the very ground that Mr. Larnon has
stupidly gone and narrated undeniable truths,
whereby he has demolished an empty shrine that
was profitable to many, and broken a painted idol
that might have served for a god.
"The names of Holland and Lamon are not of
themselves and by themselves illustrious ; but start-
ing from the title-pages of the two Lives of Lincoln,
and representing, as they do, the two schools of
biography writers, the one stands for a principle and
the other for the want of it."
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
TESTIMONY OF HON. JOHN T. STUART AND COL. JAMES
Testimony of Hon. John T. Stuart Testimony of Col. James H.Ma-
theny Stuart's Disclaimer Mathetiy's Disclaimer Examination and
Authorship of Disclaimers, Including the Edwards and Lewis Letters.
BESIDES his own testimony concerning Lincoln's
unbelief, Colonel Lamon cites the testimony of ten
additional witnesses : Hon. Wm. H. Herndon, Hon.
John T. Stuart, Col. James H. Mathenj, Dr. C. H.
Bay, Wm. H. Hannah, Esq , Mr. Jas. W. Keys, Hon.
Jesse W. Fell, Col. John G. Nicola}', Hon. David
Davis and Mrs. Mary Lincoln. The testimony of
Mr. Herndon having already been presented, the
testimony of Mr. Stuart and Colonel Matheny will
next be given. This testimony was procured by
Mr. Herndon for the purpose of refuting the errone-
ous statements of Dr. Holland.
Hon. John T. Stuart, who was for a time a mem-
ber of Congress from Illinois, was the first law
partner of Lincoln. He savs :
Lincoln went further against Christian beliefs
ami doctrines and principles than any man I ever
150 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
heard : he shocked me. I don't remember the
exact line of his argument suppose it was against
the inherent defects, so called, of the Bible, and on
grounds of reason. Lincoln always denied that
Jesus was the Christ of God denied that Jesus was
the son of God, as understood and maintained by
the Christian church. The Bev. Dr. Smith, who
wrote a letter, tried to convert Lincoln from Infidel-
ity so late as 1858, and couldn't do it " (Lamon's
Life of Lincoln, p. 488).
Col. James H. Matheny was one of Lincoln's most
intimate friends, and was for many years his chief
political manager. He testifies as follows :
" I knew Mr. Lincoln as early as 1834-7; know he
was an Infidel. He and W. D. Herndon used to talk
Infidelity in the Clerk's office in this city, about the
years 1837-40. Lincoln attacked the Bible and the
New Testament on two grounds : first, from the in-
herent or apparent contradictions under its lids ;
second, from the grounds of reason. Sometimes he
ridiculed the Bible and the New Testament, some-
times seemed to scoff it, though I shall not use that
word iu its full and literal sense. I never heard
that Lincoln changed his views, though his personal
and political friend from 1834 to 1860. Sometimes
Lincoln bordered on Atheism. He went far that
way and shocked me. I was then a young man, and
believed what my good mother told me. Stuart and
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 151
Lincoln's office was in what is called Hoffman's How,
on North Fifth street, near the public square. It
was in the same building as the Clerk's office, and
on the same floor. Lincoln would come into the
Clerk's office, where I and some young men Evan
Butler, Newton Francis and others were writing or
staying, and would bring the Bible with him ; would
read a chapter, argue against it. Lincoln then had
a smattering of geology, if I recollect it. Lincoln
often, if not wholly, was an Atheist ; at least, bor-
dered on it. Lincoln was enthusiastic in his Infidel-
ity. As he grew older, he grew more discreet, didn't
talk much before strangers about his religion ; but
to friends, close and bosom ones, he was always
open and avowed, fair and honest ; but to strangers,
he held them off from policy. Lincoln used to quote
Burns. Burns helped Lincoln to be an Infidel, as I
think ; at least he found in Burns a like thinker
" From what I know of Mr. Lincoln and his views
of Cliristianitv, and from what I know as honest,
well-founded rumor ; from what I have heard his
best friends say and regret for years ; from what he
never denied when accused, and from what Lincoln
has hinted and intimated, to say no more, he did
write a little book on Infidelity, at or near New
Salem, in Menard county, about the year 1834 or
1835. I have stated these things to you often.
152 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
Judge Logan, John T. Stuart, yourself, know what I
know, and some of you more.
" Mr. Herudon, you insist on knowing something
which you know I possess, and got as a secret, and
that is, about Lincoln's little book on Infidelity.
Mr. Lincoln did tell me that he did tvrite a little book
on Infidelity. This statement I have avoided hereto-
fore ; but, as you strongly insist upon it probably
to defend yourself against charges of misrepresenta-
tions I give it to you as I got it from Lincoln's
mouth " (Life of Lincoln, pp. 487, 488).
The evidence of Stuart and Matheny, as recorded
in Lamon's work, having been presented, it is now
proper to state that this evidence has, in a measure,
been repudiated by them. Dr. Eeed, in his lecture,
produced letters from them disclaiming in part or
modifying the statements imputed to them. Dr.
Reed says : " I have been amazed to find that the
principal persons whose testimony is given in this
book to prove that their old friend lived and died
an Infidel, never wrote a word of it, and never gave
it as their opinion or allowed it to be published as
covering their estimate of Mr. Lincoln's life and
religious views." Alluding to Stuart's evidence, he
says : " Mr. Lamon has attributed to Mr. Stuart
testimony the most disparaging and damaging to
Mr. Lincoln's character and opinions testimony
which Mr. Stuart utterly repudiates, both as to
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 153
language and sentiment." Kegarding Matheny's
testimony, he says : " Mr. Matheny testifies that he
never wrote a word of what is attributed to him ;
that it is not a fair representation of either his lan-
guage or his opinions, and that he never would
have allowed such an article to be published as cov-
ering his estimate of Mr. Lincoln's life and char-
The following is the disclaimer of Mr. Stuart :
" Springfield, Dec. 17th, 1872.
" Eev. J. A. Eeed :
" Dear Sir
" My attention has been called to a statement in
relation to the religious opinions of Mr. Lincoln,
purporting to have been made by me, and published
in Lamon's * Life of Lincoln.' The language of that
statement is not mine ; it was not written by me,
and I did not see it until it was in print. I was once
interviewed on the subject of Mr. Lincoln's religious
opinions, and doubtless said that Mr. Lincoln was
in the earlier part of his life an Infidel. I could not
have said that 'Dr. Smith tried to convert Lincoln
from Infidelity so late as 1858, and couldn't do it.'
In relation to that point I stated, in the same con-
versation, some facts which are omitted in that
statement, and which I will briefly repeat. That
Eddie, a child of Mr. Lincoln, died in 1848 or 1849,
and that he and his wife were in deep grief on the
154 ABRAHAM LINCOLN!
account. That Dr. Smith, then pastor of the First
Presbyterian church of Springfield, at the suggestion
of a lady friend of theirs, called upon Mr. and Mrs.
Lincoln, and that first visit resulted in great
intimacy and friendship between them, lasting till
the death of Mr. Lincoln, and continuing with Mrs.
Lincoln till the death of Dr. Smith. I stated that I
had heard at the time that Dr. Smith and Mr. Lin-
coln had much discussion in relation to the truth of
the Christian religion, and that Dr. Smith had fur-
nished Mr. Lincoln with books to read on that sub-
ject, and among others one which had been written
by himself, sometime previous, on Infidelity ; and
that Dr. Smith claimed that after this investigation
Mr. Lincoln had changed his opinions, and became
a believer in the truth of the Christian religion ;
that Mr. Lincoln and myself never conversed upon
that subject, and I had no personal knowledge as to
his alleged change of opinion. I stated, however,
that it was certainly true that up to that time Mr.
Lincoln had never regularly attended any place of
religious worship, but that after that time he rented
a pew in the First Presbyterian church, and with his
family constantly attended the worship in that
church until he went to Washington as President.
This much I said at the time, and I can now add
that the Hon. Ninian W. Edwards, the brother-in-
law of Mr. Lincoln, has, within a few days, informed
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 155
me that when Mr. Lincoln commenced attending the
First Presbyterian church he admitted to him that
his views had undergone the change claimed by Dr.
Smith. I would further say that Dr. Smith was a
man of great ability, and on theological and meta-
physical subjects had few superiors and not many
equals. Truthfulness was a prominent trait in Mr.
Lincoln's character, and it would be impossible for
any intimate friend of his to believe that he ever
aimed to deceive, either by his words or his con-
" Yours truly,
" John T. Stuart."
Col. Matheny's disclaimer is as follows :
" Springfield, Dec. 16th, 1872.
" Eev. J. A. Reed :
" Dear Sir
" The language attributed to me in Lamon's book
is not from my pen. I did not write it, and it does
not express my sentiments of Mr. Lincoln's entire
life and character. It is a mere collection of say-
ings gathered from private conversations that were
only true of Mr. Lincoln's earlier life. I would not
have allowed such an article to be printed over my
signature as covering my opinion of Mr. Lincoln's
life and religious sentiments. While I do believe
Mr. Lincoln to have been an Infidel in his former
life, when his mind was as yet unformed, and his
156 ABRAHAM LINCOLN !
associations principally with rough and skeptical
men, yet I believe he was a very different man in
later life, and that after associating with a different
class of men and investigating the subject, he was a
firm believer in the Christian religion.
" Yours truly,
" Jas. H. Matheny."
This disclosure startles you, my dear reader. But
be patient. I will show you that this apparently
mortal thrust of Dr. Reed's was made, not with a
lance, but with a boomerang.
When Reed made his assault upon Lamon's wit-
nesses, all stood firm but two two old Springfield
politicians whose political aspirations had not yet
become extinct John T. Stuart and James H. Math-
eny. These men had been among the first to testify
in regard to Lincoln's unbelief. His Christian
biographers had misrepresented his religious views ;
they believed that the fraud ought to be exposed,
and they were ready and willing to aid in the work.
Their testimony exhibits a frankness that is truly
commendable. They knew that lying was a vice,
but they did not know that truth-telling was a crime.
They had yet to learn that the church tolerates
murder more readily than the promulgation of a
truth that is antagonistic to her creed. But this
fact they were destined to learn. Lamon's work
had scarcely been issued from the press before he
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 157
was anathematized and his book proscribed. The
merciless attack that had already been commenced
upon Herndon portended danger to them. Nor
had they long to wait. In December, 1872, they
were approached by Reed and his coadjutors. They
were informed that the idol which their ruthless
iconoclasm had helped to break must be repaired.
They were given to understand that if they repented
of the part they had performed and recanted,
peace would be their portion here and endless bliss
hereafter ; but that if they did not, endless misery
would begin on Jan. 1, A.D. 1873.
The situation was critical. They did not like to
tell the world that they had borne false witness
against the dead, nor did they, any more than Gali-
leo, wish to wear a martyr's crown. A compromise
was finally effected. It was incidentally ascertained
by Reed that their evidence as presented by Lamon
was riot originally given in the shape of a letter or a
written statement, but orally. A happy thought
suggested itself one worthy of the unscrupulous
theological pettifogger that he is. The thought was
this : " Say to the public, or rather let me say it for
you, that you did not icrite a word of the testimony
attributed to you." Just as a witness in court might
point to the stenographer's report of his testimony
and say, " I did not write a word of that."
In addition to this, Mr. Stuart, in endeavoring to
158 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
explain away, as far as possible, the obnoxious char-
acter of his testimony, declared that some things
which he did say at the time his testimony was given
had been omitted ; while something he did not say
was inserted. They were both trivial matters, hardly
worthy of notice, even if true, and having no especial
bearing upon the case. But they served an admi-
rable purpose in enabling Heed to say that the testi-
mony adduced by Lamon was " abridged and dis-
Stuart's disclaimer, then, divested of its mislead-
ing verbiage, contains but two points. In the first
place, he says : " I could not have said that * Dr.
Smith tried to convert Lincoln from Infidelity so late
as 1858, and couldn't do it.' This sentence, like
everything else in these disclaimers, is cunningly
worded and intended to deceive. One would
naturally suppose the idea he intends to convey is
that he never declared that Dr. Smith tried to con-
vert Lincoln and couldn't do it. This, it has been
ascertained, is not his meaning. What he means is
this : " I could not have said that ' Dr. Smith tried
to convert Lincoln from Infidelity, so late as 1858,
and couldn't do it.' His denial is a mere quibble
about a date. He did undoubtedly say just what he
is reported to have said. But admitting a doubt, and
giving him the benefit of this doubt, by throwing out
the disputed date, the passage is not less damaging
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 159
than it was before : " Dr. Smith tried to convert
Lincoln from Infidelity, and couldn't do it." But
let us omit the entire sentence, and the testimony of
Mr. Stuart that remains, about which there is no
dispute, that portion of his testimony which he ad-
mits to be correct is as follows :
"Lincoln went further against Christian beliefs
and doctrines and principles than any man I ever
heard ; he shocked me. I don't remember the
exact line of his argument ; suppose it was against
the inherent defects, so called, of the Bible, and
on grounds of reason. Lincoln always denied that
Jesus was the Christ of God denied that Jesus
was the Son of God, as understood and maintained
by the Christian church."
In the second place, Mr. Stuart complains that
the rumors concerning Dr. Smith's attempted con-
version of Lincoln which he had mentioned to Mr.
Herndon at the time of giving his testimony, were
omitted. They were, and very properly, too. Mr.
Stuart, or any other good lawyer, would have omit-
ted them. Mr. Herndon desired him to testify
about what he knew, and not about what lie had
heard, especially as he was going to headquarters in
regard to these rumors. He wrote to Dr. Smith
himself about them, received his testimony, and
gave it to the public.
Stuart affects to believe that this story, which
160 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
Ninian Edwards is dragged around by Reed to
verify, may possibly have been true. But in the
same sentence, he refutes this idea, and refutes the
claim itself, by saying: "I had no personal knowl-
edge as to his alleged change of opinion." Stuart
was a familv connection of Lincoln, and if Lincoln
had been converted, he, as well as every other per-
son in Springfield, would have known it.
He states that Dr. Smith's first visit to Lincoln
was " at the suggestion of a lady friend." To have
avoided another glaring contradiction in the evidence
of his witnesses, Reed should have had Major Stuart
state that this "lady friend " was Thomas Lewis.
As it is, the account given by Stuart of Dr. Smith's
first visit and acquaintance with Lincoln is entirely
at variance with the account given by Mr. Lewis in
his letter, quoted in chapter I.
Mr. Stuart evidently entertained no very kind
opinion of Colonel Lamon's work, and this made
him all the more disposed to accede to Reed's de-
mands. His position on the slavery question, for a
time, was one which, in the light of subsequent
events, he had no reason to be proud of, and Lamon
in narrating the acts of Lincoln's life found it neces-
sary frequently to refer to this. Such passages as
the following were calculated not only to make him
offended at Lamon, but jealous of Herndon : " John
T. Stuart was keeping his eye on Lincoln, with the
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 161
view of keeping him on his side -the totally dead
conservative side." " Mr. Lincoln was beset by
warm friends and by old coadjutors, and besought
to pause in his anti-slavery course while there was
vet time. Among these there was none more earnest
or persuasive than John T. Stuart, who was but the
type of a class. . . . But Mr. Herndon was more
than a match for the full array against him. An
earnest man, instant in season and out of season, he
spoke with the eloquence of apparent truth and of
real personal love " (Life of Lincoln, pp. 374, 352).
Colonel Matheny was not prepared to deny the
correctness of a single statement in his testimony,
but was forced to modify its bearing as a whole. He
was made to say : " It does not express my senti-
ments of Mr. Lincoln's entire life and character."
Now, anyone who reads his evidence cannot fail to
observe that he did intend to cover Lincoln's entire
life and character. There is not in it the slightest
intimation that he referred merely to a part of his
life. Indeed, there is one statement in his evidence
which utterly precludes such an assumption. He
expressly says : " I never heard that Lincoln
changed his views, though his personal and political
friend from 1834 to 1860." But Heed must have a
sufficient portion of his life reserved in which to in-
ject the story of his alleged conversion; and so
Matheny's offense was condoned on the condition
ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
that be retain the earlier part of Lincoln's life for
his testimony to rest upon, and concede the remain-
der to Eeed for " The Later Life and Religious
Sentiments of Lincoln." This division of Lincoln's
life is quite indefinite, but Reed would have us be-
lieve that Colonel Matheny's evidence relates wholly
to that portion of his life anterior to 1848, when Dr.
Smith began the task of Christianizing him,
Matheny's disclaimer is dated Dec. 16, 1872. On
Dec. 9, 1873, he made the following explanation,
which was published in a Springfield paper :
"What I mean, in my Reed letter, by Mr. Lincoln's
earlier life, is his whole life and history in Illinois.
In Illinois, and up to the time he left for Washing-
ton, he was, as I understand it, a confirmed Infidel.
What I mean by Mr. Lincoln's later life, is his
Washington life, where he associated with religious
people, when and where I believe he thought he
became a Christian. I told Mr. Reed all this just
before signing the letter spoken of. I knew nothing
of Mr. Lincoln's investigation into the subject of
He says that his evidence " is a mere collection of
sayings gathered from private conversations." It
is doubtless true that he had many private conversa-
tions with Mr. Herndon on this subject ; but his
published testimony was all given at one sitting, and
more, he signed that testimony. Every word attributed
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 163
to him in Lainon's work, and repeated in this chap-
ter, originally appeared above his signature.
The concluding words of his disclaimer are as fol-
" While I do believe Mr. Lincoln to have been an
Infidel in his former life, when his mind was as yet
unformed, and his associations principally with
rough and skeptical men, yet I believe he was a very
different man in later life ; and that after associating
with a different class of men, and investigating the
subject, he was a firm believer in the Christian
These words, as modified by the following, con-
stitute a most remarkable statement :
"In Illinois, and up to the time he left for Wash-
ington, he was, as I understand it, a confirmed In-
fidel. What I mean by Mr, Lincoln's later life, is
his Washington life, where he associated with re-
Colonel Matheny confines Lincoln's Infidelity to
that portion of his life " when his mind was as yet
unformed," and affirms that this portion comprised
all the years preceding his removal to Washington
in 1861. Thus during the first fifty-two years of
Lincoln's life, " his mind was as yet unformed."
His enviable reputation as one of the foremost law-
yers of Illinois was achieved while " his mind was
as yet unformed ;" when his friends sent him to Con-
164 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
gress " his mind was as yet unformed;" when he made
his Bloomington speech, " his mind was as yet
unformed ;" when he delivered his famous Spring-
field speech, " his mind was as yet unformed ;"
when he conducted his masterly debates with
Stephen A. Douglas, " his mind was as yet un-
formed ;" when lie prepared and delivered that
model of political addresses, the Cooper In-
stitute address, " his mind was as yet unformed ;"
when at the Chicago Convention he outstripped
in the race for Presidential nominee such emi-
nent leaders as Seward and Chase, " his mind
was as yet unformed ;" when he was elected Chief
Magistrate of this great nation, " his mind was as
It was only by leaving Illinois and going to Wash-
ington that he was thrown into religious society.
Washington politicians are noted for their piety,
you know. According to Matheny et al., New Salem
was a second Sodom, Springfield a second Gomorrah
and Washington a sort of New Jerusalem, inhabited
chiefly by saints
Neither in Matheny 's letter, nor in his interpreta-
tion of this letter, is there a word to indicate that he
recognized the fact that Lincoln went to Washington
to assume the office and perform the duties of Presi-
dent. On the contrary, the whole tenor of his re-
marks is to the effect that he believed the people
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 165
sent him there on account of his wickedness, and
while " his mind was as yet unformed," to attend a
reform school, and that subsequently he entered a
theological seminary, and there died.
The most amusing feature of Matheny's letter
is that he unwittingly certifies that his own character
was not good. He declares that Lincoln was an
Infidel because his associations were " with rough
and skeptical men ;" but that after removing to
Washington and " associating with a different class
of men ' he became a Christian. Now, it is well
known that one of the most conspicuous of his
"rough and skeptical' 1 associates in Illinois was
James H. Matheny.
Colonel Matheny, in his explanatory remarks,
says : " I believe he thought he became a Christian ;"
and in almost the next breath says, " I knew nothing
of Mr. Lincoln's investigation into the subject of
Christianity." Can anything be more unreasonable
than this ? Colonel Matheny knowing that Lincoln
was a confirmed Infidel an Infidel when he went to
Washington knowing nothing about his having
afterward investigated Christianity knowing that
he had no time for such an investigation, and yet
believing that Lincoln thought he became a Chris-
tian ! Why did he not mention this when he gave
his testimony ? The fact is, he did not believe that
Lincoln became a Christian ; but with an orthodox
166 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
club raised above his head, he found it very con-
venient to profess to believe it.
As Mr. Reed has endeavored to prove that Lamou
and H&yndon did not faithfully report the evidence
of Stuart and Matheny, it is but just that Mr. Hern-
don, who took down their testimony, be permitted to
speak in his own defense. In his Springfield lecture,
delivered in Major Stuart's town, if not in his pres-
ence, referring to Stuart's testimony, he says :
" Mr. Stuart did not write the note and no one
ever said he did. "What is there stated was the sub-
stance of a conversation between Mr. Stuart and my-
self about Mr. Lincoln's religion. I took down in a
note in his office and in his presence his words and
ideas as I did in other cases. The conversation
spoken of took place in Mr. Stuart's office, and in the
east room. Mr. Stuart does not deny that the note
is substantially correct. He simply says he could
not have said that Dr. Smith tried to convert Mr.
Lincoln, and couldn't do it. I well remember that
he did use this language. It seemed to do him good
to say it. ... It seems that Mr. Stuart had
heard that Mr. Lincoln and Dr. Smith had much
discussion about Christianity, but he failed to hear
of Mr. Lincoln's conversion, or anything like it, and
well might he say, as Jte did, that ' Dr. Smith tried
to convert Mr. Lincoln, but couldn't do it.' "
Any charitably disposed person, knowing the gen-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 167
eral good character of both men, instead of crying
" Fraud !" as Reed has done, will readily conclude
that Mr. Herndon was mistaken, or that Mr. Stuart
had forgotten just what he did say, and is it not
more reasonable to suppose that the latter gentle-
man, in the lapse of six years, should have forgotten
some things he said, than that Mr. Herndon, who
recorded them the moment they were uttered, should
be mistaken ?
Alluding to Colonel Matheny's evidence, in the
same lecture, Mr. Herndon says :
" The next gentleman introduced by Mr. Heed is
Col. James H. Matheny.. He is made to say, in a
letter addressed to Mr. Reed, that he did not write
the statement in Lamon's 'Life of Lincoln.' I do not
claim that he did. I wrote it in the court house
this hall in Mr. Matheny's presence, and at his
dictation. I read it over to him and he approved it.
I wrote it all at once as he spoke it to rne ; it is not
made up of scraps ' a mere collection of sayings
gathered from private conversations, that were only
true of Mr. Lincoln's earlier life.' I say that this
statement was written all at one time and place, and
not at different times and places. Let any critic,
any man of common sense, read it and he will say :
This was all written at once.' I appeal to the
manner the close connection of words and ideas in
which it runs word with word, sentence with sen-
168 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
tence, and idea with idea, for the proof that it was
made at one sitting. Mr. Matheny has often told
me that Mr. Lincoln was an Infidel. He admits this
in his letter to Mr. Reed. He never intimated in
that or any other conversation with me that he
believed that Mr. Lincoln in his later life became a
In a letter dated Sept. 14, 1887, Mr. Herndon
" I acted in this matter honestly, and I will always
abide by my notes taken down at the time. I was
cautious very careful of what I did, because I
knew that the church would damn me and prove me
false if it could. I stood on the exactness of truth
I have thus far assumed that Stuart and Matheny
really wrote the letters of disclaimer addressed to
Reed. Mr. Heed states that he is " amazed to find "
that they did not write the statements attributed to
them by Lamon. The reader is by this time suffi-
ciently familiar with this reverend gentleman's
methods that he will not be "amazed to find" that
Stuart and Matheny did not write these disclaimers.
I now affirm that James H. Matheny did not write a
word of the letter purporting to have been written
by him. It was Written by the Rev. J. A. Heed ! We
have not the expressed declaration of Mr. Stuart
that this is true of the letter imputed to him, but
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 169
there is other evidence which makes it clearly ap-
parent that this letter was also written by Mr. Reed.
Nor is this all. I shall now endeavor to show
that the greater part of the evidence presented by
Eeed, in his lecture, was composed and written by
himself. Let us take the four letters credited
respectively to Edwards, Lewis, Stuart, and Matheny.
I shall attempt to demonstrate the common origin of
these letters, first, by their form ; secondly, by the
language of their contents.
The different forms employed in epistolary corre-
spondence are numerous, far more numerous than
generally supposed. To illustrate : four hundred
letters, written by as many different persons, and all
addressed to the same person, were, without examina-
tion, divided into one hundred parcels of four letters
each. They were then examined in regard to the
form employed by the writer. The heading, the ad-
dress, the introduction, and the subscription were
noted no attention being paid to the body of the
letter, or the signature. In not one of these one
hundred parcels were found four letters having the
same form. The heading of these letters exhibited
nine different forms ; the address, fourteen ; the
introduction, eight ; and the subscription, eleven.
Again, nearly every writer employs certain idioms
of language that are peculiar to him, and which
reveal his identity, even though he tries to conceal it.
170 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
Let us now institute a brief analysis of the four
letters under consideration. Errors will be noticed,
not for the purpose of reflecting upon the literary
attainments of the writer, but solely with a view of
discovering his identity. These are mostly of a
trivial character, confined to marks of punctuation,
etc.; and it is a recognized fact that a majority of
educated persons, including many professional
writers, are more or less deficient in the art of
punctuation. In proof of the common authorship of
these four letters, the following reasons are sub-
1. In all of them we recognize a stiff formality a
studied effort to conform to one ideal standard.
2. All of them were written at Springfield, 111.,
and all omit the name of the state.
3. In each of them, the day of the month is fol-
lowed by the suffix " th." This, if not wholly im-
proper, is not common usage. Had these letters
been written by the four persons to whom they are
ascribed, at least three of them would have omit-
4 In all, but one, the address is " Rev. J. A.
Reed," and in the exception the writer merely sub-
stitutes "Jas." for "J."
5. In each of them the address is followed by a
colon instead of a comma, the proper mark to use.
Had they been written by four persons, it is possible
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 171
that a part, or even all, would have made an error,
but it is highly improbable that all would have
made the same error.
6. In these letters, the introductory words are
uniformly " Dear Sir " the most common form of
introduction, and the one that a writer, in drafting
a letter addressed to himself, would most naturally
7. In every instance, the introduction is followed
by a dash instead of a colon a uniformity of error,
8. In the subscription, the term, " Yours truly,"
is invariably used, except in the Lewis letter, which
concludes with " Yours, etc."
9. The Edwards letter and the Lewis letter begin
with the same idea, expressed in nearly the same
words. Edwards is made to say, " A short time after
the Rev. Dr. Smith," etc.; and Lewis "Not long
after Dr. Smith."
10. Omitting the introductory sentence in the
Stuart letter, which is merely the expansion of an
idea used in writing the Matheny letter on the pre-
ceding day, the Stuart and Matheny letters begin
with the same idea. Stuart says : " The language
of that statement is not mine ; it was not written by
me." Matheny says : " The language attributed to
me ... is not from my pen. I did not write
it." Reed himself uses substantially the same Ian-
172 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
guage that is ascribed to them. Had their state-
ments, as published in Lamon's work, been forgeries,
or grossly inaccurate, they might have used the
language quoted above. Under the circumstances
they would not have used it. Major Stuart and
Colonel Matheny were lawyers, not pettifoggers.
11. These prefatory sentences of Stuart and Ma-
thenv both begin with the same words " the Ian-
12. In both the Edwards and Lewis letters, refer-
ence is made to a theological work which Dr. Smith
is said to have written. The writer of neither letter
is able to state the name of the book ; Dr. Reed is
unable to state the name of it ; Dr. Smith himself
does not mention the name of it ; but he does
plainly state that it was a work on the Bible. For
" the business he had on hand," however, it suited
Reed's purpose better to give a semi-erroneous im-
pression of its character, and so he affirms that it
was a work on "the evidences of Christianity."
Curiously enough, in the Edwards letter and again
in the Lewis letter, the book is described as a work
on " the evidences of Christianity."
13. The Edwards letter reports Lincoln as saying :
" I have been reading a work of Dr. Smith on ih?
evidences of Christianity." The Lewis letter repre-
sents him as saying that " He had seen and partially
read a work of Dr. Smith on the evidences of Christian-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 173
ity" Here are ten consecutive words in the two
14 Mr. Beed, in his lecture, never once uses the
word " Christianity," except as above noticed to de-
scribe Dr. Smith's book ; he always uses the words
" the Christian religion " employing this term no
less than seven times. This usage is not common.
An examination of various theological writings shows
that " Christianity " is used twenty times where " the
Christian religion " is used once. Yet in these letters
the word " Christianity " is not to be found, except in
the same sense as used by Dr. Reed, while " the Chris-
tian religion ' occurs in each of the four letters.
15. rt The truth of the Christian religion " is a
favorite phrase with Reed, occurring three times in
his lecture. This phrase also occurs three times in
these letters once in the Edwards letter, and twice
in the Stuart letter.
16. Reed has much to say about Lincoln's " life
and religious sentiments ;" in fact, his lecture is
entitled, " The Later Life and Religious Sentiments
of Abraham Lincoln." In the Matheny letter, too,
we find "Mr. Lincoln's life and religious senti-
17. The words " earlier " and " later " are fre-
quently used by Reed in connection with Lincoln's
life. The same words are used in the Stuart and
Matheny letters, and in the same connection.
174 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
18. The Stuart letter is, for the most part, de-
voted to the narration of " some facts ' which Mr.
Stuart is said to have presented to Mr. Herndon,
beginning with this : " That Eddie, a child of Mr.
Lincoln, died in 1848 or 1849," etc. Now, Mr.
Stuart well knew that, during all this time, Mr.
Herndon was the intimate associate of Lincoln and
thoroughly familiar with every event in his history.
The " facts " given in this letter are not such as Mr.
Stuart would have communicated to Mr. Herndon,
but they are such as Mr. Reed would naturally
desire to place before the public.
19. Nothing in Dr. Eeed's career has excited his
vanity more than the fact that he was pastor of the
First Presbyterian Church of Springfield the church
which Lincoln once attended. Consequently, the
" First Presbyterian Church ' is a conspicuous ob-
ject in his lecture, and nowhere is it more conspic-
uous than in these letters. In the Stuart letter it
appears three times, and the writer never fails to
state that it was the " First Presbyterian Church "
the church of which Dr. Heed was pastor.
20. According to the principle of accretion, if two
articles or letters are written on the same subject,
the second will usually be longer than the first.
This is true of these letters. The Lewis letter, re-
lating to Smith's reputed conversion of Lincoln,
was written after the Edwards letter relative to the
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 175
same subject, and is longer. The Stuart disclaimer,
which is the longer of the two, was written after the
From the foregoing, is it not clearly evident that
these four letters were all written by the same per-
son ? If so, then knowing that Dr. Reed wrote one
of them, the Matheny letter, does it not necessarily
follow that he wrote them all ?
In the Gurley testimony, such expressions as " the
Christian religion " and " the truth of the Christian
religion," together with the Heed story concerning
Lincoln's intention of making a profession of relig-
ion, reveal the authorship of this testimony also.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
TESTIMONY OF THE REMAINING WITNESSES PRESENTED
Dr. C. H. Ray Wm. II. Hannah, Esq. James W. Keys Hon.
Jesse W. Fell Col. John G. Nicolay Hon. David Davis Mrs. Mary
Lincoln Injustice to Mrs. Lincoln Answer to Reed's Pretended Ref-
utation of the Testimony of Lamon's Witnesses.
SEVEN of Lamon's witnesses Bay, Hannah, Keys,
Fell, Nicolay, Davis, and Mrs. Lincoln remain to
testify. The testimony of these witnesses will now
DR. C. H. RAY.
Dr. Bay, editor of the Chicago Tribune, a promi-
nent figure in Illinois politics thirty years ago, and
a personal friend and admirer of Lincoln, testifies as
"You knew Mr. Lincoln far better than I did,
though I knew him well ; and you have served up
his leading characteristics in a way that I should
despair of doing, if I should try. I have only one
thing to ask : that you do not give Calvinistic theol-
ogy a chance to claim him as one of its saints and
martyrs. He went to the Old School Church ; but,
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 177
in spite of that outward assent to the horrible
dogmas of the sect, I have reason from himself to
know that his ' vital purity,' if that means belief in
the impossible, was of a negative sort" (Lamon's
Life of Lincoln, pp. 489, 490).
Dr. Kay states that Lincoln held substantially the
same theological opinions as those held by Theodore
WILLIAM H. HANNAH.
A leading member of the Bloomington bar,
when Lincoln practiced there, was Wm. H.
Hannah. He was an honest, truthful man, and
knew Lincoln well. Concerning Lincoln's views
on the doctrine of endless punishment, Mr. Han-
nah says :
" Since 1856 Mr. Lincoln told me that he was a
kind of immortalist ; but that he never could bring
himself to believe in eternal punishment ; that man
lived but a little while here, .and that, if eternal
punishment were man's doom, he should spend that
little life in vigilant and ceaseless preparation by
never-ending prayer " (Life of Lincoln, p. 489).
JAMES W. KEYS.
Mr. Jas. W. Keys, an old and respected citizen of
Springfield, who became acquainted with Lincoln
soon after his removal there, and who had many con-
178 ABRAHAM LINCOLN!
versations with him on the subject of theology,
" As to the Christian theory, that Christ is God,
or equal to the Creator, he said that it had better
be taken for granted ; for, by the test of reason, we
might become Infidels on that subject, for evidence
of Christ's divinity came to us in a somewhat doubt-
ful shape " (Life of Lincoln, p. 490).
HON. JESSE W. FELL.
Jesse W. Fell, who died at Bloomington in the
spring of 1887, was one of the best known and most
highly respected citizens of Illinois. He was Secre-
tary of the Republican State Central Commitee dur-
ing the memorable Lincoln-Douglas campaign, and
was largely instrumental in bringing Lincoln forward
as a candidate for the Presidency in 1860. It was
for him that Lincoln wrote an autobiographical
sketch of his life, which formed the basis of his cam-
paign biographies, the fac-simile of which appears
in Lamon's " Life of Lincoln," and in the " Lincoln
Memorial Album." Mr. Fell was a Christian of the
Unitarian denomination, and there were few men for
whom Lincoln had a more profound respect. The
following is his testimony :
" Though everything relating to the character of
this extraordinary personage is of interest, and
should be fairly stated to the world, I enter upon the
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 179
performance of this duty for so I regard it with
some reluctance, arising from the fact that, in stating
my convictions on the subject, I must necessarily
place myself in opposition to quite a number who
have written on this topic before me, and whose
views largely pre-occupy the public mind. This
latter fact, whilst contributing to my embarrassment
on this subject, is, perhaps, the strongest reason,
however, why the truth in this matter should be
fully disclosed ; and I therefore yield to your request.
If there were any traits of character that stood out
in bold relief in the person of Mr. Lincoln, they
were those of truth and candor. He was utterly in-
capable of insincerity, or professing views on this
or any other subject he did not entertain.
Knowing such to be his true character, that insin-
cerity, much more duplicity, were traits wholly
foreign to his nature, many of his old friends were
not a little surprised at finding, in some of the
biographies of this great man, statements concerning
his religious opinions so utterly at variance with his
known sentiments. True, he may have changed or
modified those sentiments after his removal from
among us, though this is hardly reconcilable with
the history of the man, and his entire devotion to
public matters during his four years' residence at
the national capital. It is possible, however, that
this may be the proper solution of this conflict 01
180 ABRAHAM LINCOLN !
opinions ; or, it may be, that, with no intention on
the part of anyone to mislead the public mind, those
who have represented him as believing in the
popular theological views of the times may have mis-
apprehended him, as experience shows to be quite
common where no special effort has been made to
attain critical accuracy on a subject of this nature.
This is the more probable from the well-known fact
that Mr. Lincoln seldom communicated to anyone
his views on this subject. But, be this as it may, I
have no hesitation whatever in saying that, whilst
he held many opinions in common with the great
mass of Christian believers, he did not believe in
what are regarded as the orthodox or evangelical
views of Christianity.
" On the innate depravity of man, the character
and office of the great head of the church, the atone-
ment, the infallibility of the written revelation, the
performance of miracles, the nature and design of
present and future rewards and punishments (as
they are popularly called) and many other subjects,
he held opinions utterly at variance with what are
usually taught in the church. I should say that his
expressed views on these and kindred topics were
such as, in the estimation of most believers, would
place him entirely outside the Christian pale. Yet,
to my mind, such was not the true position, since his
principles and practices and the spirit of his whole
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 181
life were of the very kind we universally agree to
call Christian ; and I think this conclusion is in no
wise affected by the circumstance that he never at-
tached himself to any religious society whatever.
" His religious views were eminently practical,
and are summed up, as I think, in these two proposi-
tions : ' the fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood
of man.' He fully believed in a superintending and
overruling Providence that guides and controls the
operations of the world, but maintained that law and
order, and not their violation or suspension, are
the appointed means by which this Providence is
"I will not attempt any specification of either his
belief or disbelief on various religious topics, as de-
rived from conversations with him at different times
during a considerable period; but, as conveying a
general view of his religious or theological opinions,
will state the following facts : Some eight or ten
years prior to his death, in conversing with him on
this subject, the writer took occasion to refer, in
terms of approbation, to the sermons and writings
generally of Dr. W. E. Charming ; and, finding he
was considerably interested in the statement I made
of the opinions held by that author, I proposed to
present him a copy of Channing's entire works,
which I soon after did. Subsequently, the contents
f these volumes, together with the writings of
182 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
Theodore Parker, furnished him, as he informed me,
by his friend and law-partner, Mr. Herndon, became
naturally the topics of conversation with us ; and
though far from believing there was an entire har-
mony of views on his part with either of those
authors, yet they were generally much admired anil
approved by him.
" No religious views with him seemed to find anv
favor, except of the practical and rationalistic order ;
and if, from my recollections on this subject, I was
called upon to designate an author whose views most
nearly represented Mr. Lincoln's on this subject, I
would say that author was Theodore Parker.
" As you have asked from me a candid statement
of my recollections on this topic, I have thus briefly
given them, with the hope that they may be of some
service in rightl}* settling a question about which
as I have good reason to believe the public mind
has been greatly misled. Not doubting that they
will accord, substantially, with your own recollec-
tions, and that of his other intimate and confidential
friends, and with the popular verdict after this mat-
ter shall have been properly canvassed, I submit
them " (Life of Lincoln, pp. 490-492).
Mr. Fell's testimony is full and explicit. He
affirms that Lincoln rejected nearly all the leading
tenets of orthodox Christianity ; the inspiration of
the Scriptures, the divinity of Christ, the innate de-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 183
pravity of man, the atonement, the performance of
miracles, and future rewards and punishments.
>; His expressed views on these and kindred topics,"
Mr. Fell says, " were such as, in the estimation of
most believers, would place him entirely outside the
Christian pale." Mr. Fell, himself, was not disposed
to withhold from Lincoln the appellation of Chris-
tian, but it was only because he stood upon the broad
Liberal Christian, or rather non-Christian, platform
which permitted him to welcome a Theist, like
Parker ; a Pantheist, like Emerson ; or even an
Agnostic, like Ingersoll.
CO L JOHN G. N I CO LAY.
The next witness introduced by Lamon, is Col.
John G. Nicolay, Lincoln's private secretary at the
White House. Nicolay's relations with the President
were more intimate than those of any other man.
To quote the words of Lincoln's partner, " Mr. Lin-
coln loved him and trusted him." His testimonv is
among the most important that this controversy has
elicited. It proves beyond the shadow of a doubt
that all these stories concerning Lincoln's alleged
conversation at Washington are false, that he did not
change his belief, that he died as he had always
lived a Freethinker. In a letter written Mav 27,
1865, just six weeks after Lincoln's death, Colonel
Nicolay says :
184 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
" Mr. Lincoln did not, to my knowledge, in any way,
change his religious ideas, opinions or beliefs, from
the time he left Springfield till the day of his death.
I do not know just what they were, never having
heard him explain them in detail, but I am very sure
he gave no outward indications of his mind having
undergone any change in that regard while here'
(Life of Lincoln, p. 492).
HON. DKVID DAVIS.
One of the most important, and in some respects
the most eminent witness summoned to testify in
regard to this question, is the Hon. David Davis. In
moral character he stood above reproach, in iiitel-
lectual ability, almost without a peer. Every step in
his career was marked by unswerving integrity and
freedom from prejudice. His rulings and decisions
in the lower courts of Illinois, and on the bench of
the Supreme Court of the United States, commanded
uniyersal respect. As a legislator, his love of truth
and justice prevented him from being a political
partisan. As United States Senator and Vice-Presi-
dent of the United. States, the party that elected him
could obtain his support for no measure that he
deemed unjust. Referring to his acquaintance with
Lincoln, Judge Davis says : " I enjoyed for over
twenty years the personal friendship of Mr. Lincoln.
We were admitted to the bar about the same time,
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 185
and traveled for many years what is known in
Illinois as the Eighth Judicial Circuit. ID 1848,
when I first went on the bench, the circuit embraced
fourteen counties, and Mr. Lincoln went with the
court to every county." A large portion of this time
they passed in each other's company. They often
rode in the same vehicle, generally ate at the same
table, and not infrequently slept together in the
same bed. The closest intimacy existed between
them as long as Lincoln lived, and when he died,
Mr. Davis became his executor. Judge Davis would
not intentionally have misrepresented the opinions
of an enemy, much less the opinions of his dear dead
friend. Briefly, yet clearly, he defines the theolog-
ical views of Lincoln :
" He had no faith, in the Christian sense of the
term had faith in laws, principles, causes, and
effects philosophically' 1 (Life of Lincoln, p. 489).
Speaking of the many stories that had been circu-
lated concerning Lincoln's religious belief, such as
the Bateman and Vinton interviews, together with
the various pious speeches he is reported to have
made to religious committees and delegations that
visited him, such as his reputed speech to the
Negroes of Baltimore, Judge Davis says :
" The idea that Lincoln talked to a stranger about
his religion or religious views, or made such
speeches, remarks, <fcc., about it as are published, is
to me absurd. I knew the man so well. He was the
most reticent, secretive man I ever saw, or expect to
see " (Ibid).
MRS. MARY LINCOLN.
But one of Lamon's witnesses remains the wife of
the martyred President. Her testimony ought of
itself to put this matter at rest forever. Mrs. Lin-
coln says :
" Mr. Lincoln had no hope, and no faith, in the
usual acceptation of those words' 1 (Life of Lincoln,
In addition to what Colonel Lamon has presented,
Mrs. Lincoln also stated the following :
" Mr. Lincoln's maxim and philosophy were,
* What is to be, will be, and no prayers of ours can
arrest the decree.' He never joined any church. He
was a religious man always, I think, but was not a
technical Christian' (Herndon's ''Religion of Lin-
It may be charged that Mrs. Lincoln subsequently
repudiated a portion of this testimony. In anticipa-
tion of such a charge I will here state a few facts.
This testimony was given by Mrs. Lincoln in 1865.
When it was given, while her heart was pierced by
the pangs of her great grief, her mind was sound.
About Jan. 1, 1874. a brief article, purporting to
come from her pen, appeared, in which the testimony
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 187
attributed to her was in part denied. At the time
this denial was written, Mrs. Lincoln had been for
more than two years insane. The chief cause in de-
throning her reason was the death of her universally
beloved Tad (Thomas), which occurred on July 15,
1871. Referring to this sad event, Mr. Arnold, one
of the principal witnesses on the Christian side of
this controversy, says : " From this time Mrs. Lin-
coln, in the judgment of her most intimate friends,
was never entirely responsible for her conduct '
(Life of Lincoln, p. 439).
The only effect of this denial on the minds of those
acquainted with the circumstances, was to excite a
mingled feeling of pity and disgust pity for this
unfortunate woman, and disgust for the contemptible
methods of those who would take advantage of her
demented condition and make her contradict the
honest statements of her rational life.
Before dismissing this witness, I wish to advert
to a subject with which many of my readers are
familiar. For years, both before and after Lincoln's
death, the religious press of the country was contin-
ually abusing Mrs. Lincoln. If a ball was held at the
White House, she became at once the recipient of
unlimited abuse. If Lincoln attended the theater,
she was accused of having dragged him there against
his will. It was armost uniformly asserted that he
would not have gone to the theater on that fatal
188 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
night bad it not been for her, and in not a few in-
stances it was infamously hinted that she was cogni-
zant of the plot to murder him. But even the Rev.
Dr. Miner, who was acquainted with the facts, is
willing to vindicate her from these imputations. He
says : " It has been said that Mrs. Lincoln urged her
husband to go to the theater against his will. This
is not true. On the contrary, she tried to persuade
him not to go."
Lincoln's biographers have, for the most part, en-
deavored to do his wife justice, and have rebuked the
insults showered upon her. Alluding to President
and Mrs. Lincoln, Mr. Herndon says: "All that I know
ennobles both." Colonel Lamon savs : " Almost ever
since Mr. Lincoln's death a portion of the press has
never tired of heaping brutal reproaches upon his
wife and widow, whilst a certain class of his friends
thought they were honoring his memory by multi-
plying outrages and indignities upon her at the very
moment when she was broken by want and sorrow,
defamed, defenseless, in the hands of thieves, and at
the mercy of spies." Mr. Arnold says : " There is
nothing in American history so unmanly, so devoid
of every chivalric impulse as the treatment of this
poor, broken-hearted woman."
The evidence of Colonel Lamon's ten witnesses
has now been presented. This evidence includes, in
addition to the testimony of other intimate friends,
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 189
the testimony of his wife ; the testimony of his first
law partner, Hon. John T. Stuart ; the testimony of
his last law partner, Hon. Wm. H. Herndon ; the tes-
timony of his friend and political adviser, Col. James
H. Matheny ; the testimony of his private secretary,
Col. John G. Nicolay ; and the testimony of his life-
long friend and executor after death, Judge David
Davis. No one can read this evidence and then
honestly affirm that Abraham Lincoln was a Chris-
tian. This is the evidence, the perusal of which so
thoroughly enraged that good Christian biographer,
Dr. J. G. Holland ; this is the evidence, the truthful-
ness of which the Rev. J. A. Reed, unmindful of the
fate of Ananias, attempted to deny.
As a full and just answer to this attempted refuta-
tion of Lamon's witnesses by Reed, I quote from the
New York World the following :
"This individual testimony is clear and over-
whelming, without the documentary and other evi-
dence scattered profusely through the rest of the
volume. How does Mr. Reed undertake to refute
it? In the first place, firstly, he pronounces it a
'libel,' and in the second pla3e, secondly, he is
' amazed to find ' and he says he has found that
the principal witnesses take exception to Mr.
Lamon's report of their evidence. This might have
been true of many or all of Mr. Lamon's witnesses
without exciting the wonder of a rational man. Few
190 ABEAHAM LINCOLN:
persons, indeed, are willing to endure reproach
merely for the truth's sake, and popular opinion in
the Republican party of Springfield, 111., is probably
very much against Mr. Lamon. It would, therefore,
be quite in the natural order if some of his witnesses
who find themselves unexpectedly in print should
succumb to the social and political terrorism of
their place and time, and attempt to modify or ex-
plain their testimony. They zealously assisted Mr.
Herndon in ascertaining the truth, and while they
wanted him to tell it in full they were prudently re-
solved to keep their own names snugly out of sight.
But Mr. Heed's statement is not true, and his
amazement is entirely simulated. Two only out of
the ten witnesses have gratified him by inditing, at
his request, weak and guarded complaints of unfair
treatment. These are John T. Stuart, a relative of
the Lincolns and Edwardses, and Jim Matheny,
both of Springfield, whom Mr. Lincoln taught his
peculiar doctrines, but who may by this time be
deacons in Mr. Reed's church. Neither of them
helps Mr. Reed's case a particle. Their epistles
open, as if by concert, in form and words almost
identical. They say they did not write the language
attributed to them. The denial is wholly unneces-
sary, for nobod} 7 affirms that they did write it.
They talked and Mr. Herndon wrote. His notes
were made when the conversation occurred, and
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 191
probably in their presence. At all events, they are
both so conscious of the general accuracy of his re-
port that they do not venture to deny a single word
of it, but content themselves with lamenting that
something else, which they did not say, was excluded
from it. They both, however, in these very letters,
repeat emphatically the material part of the state-
ments made by them to Mr. Herndon, namely, that
Mr. Lincoln was to their certain knowledge, until a
very late period of his life, an ' Infidel,' and neither
of them is able to tell when he ceased to be an Infi-
del and when he began to be a Christian. And this
is all Mr. Reed makes by his re-examination of the
two persons whom he is pleased to exalt as Mr.
Lamon's * principal witnesses.' They are but two
out of the ten. What of the other eight? They
have no doubt been tried and plied by Mr. Reed and
bis friends to no purpose ; they stand fast by the
record. But Mr. Reed is to be shamed neither by
their speech nor their silence."
TES1IMONY OP LINCOLN S RELATIVES AND INTIMATE AS-
Mrs. Sarah Lincoln Dennis P. Hanks Mrs. Matilda Moore John
Hall Wm. McNeely Wm. G. Green Joshua F. Speed Green Caru-
thers John Decamp Mr. Lynan James B. Spanieling Ezra String-
ham Dr. G. H Ambrose J. H. Cheneiy Squire Perkins W. Per-
kins James Gorley Dr. Wm. Jayne Jesse K. Dubois Hon. Joseph
Gillespie Judge Stephen T. Logan Hon. Leonard Swett.
WERE I to rest my case here, the evidence already
adduced is sufficient, I think, to convince any un-
prejudiced mind that Lincoln was not a Christian.
But I do not propose to rest here. I have presented
the testimonv of half a score of witnesses ; before I
lay down my pen I shall present the testimony of
nearly ten times as many more.
In this chapter will be given the testimony of
some of the relatives and intimate associates of Lin-
coln. The testimony of his relatives confirms the
claim that he was not religious in his youth ; the
others testify to his unbelief while a resident of New
Salem and Springfield.
WAS HE A CH11ISTIAN? 193
MRS. SARAH LINCOLN.
If there was one person to whom Lincoln was
more indebted than to any other, it was his step-
mother, Sally Lincoln, a beautiful woman beautiful
not only in face and form, but possessed of a most
lovely character. She was not highly educated, but
she loved knowledge, and inspired in her step-son a
love for books. She was a Christian, but she
attached more importance to deed than to creed.
She loved Lincoln. After his death she said : " He
was dutiful to me always. I think he loved me truly.
I had a son, John, who was raised with Abe. Both
were good boys ; but I must say, both now being
dead, that Abe was the best boy I ever saw, or expect
to see." Lincoln was too good and too great not to
appreciate this woman's care and affection.
When the materials for Lincoln's biography were
being collected, Mrs. Lincoln was cousidered the
most reliable source from which to obtain the facts
pertaining to his boyhood. Her recollections of him
were recorded with the utmost care. His Christian
biographers, in order to make a Sunday-school hero
() f him, have declared him to be a youth remarkable
for his Christian piety and his love of the Bible.
"he statements of Mrs. Lincoln disprove this claim.
The substance of her testimony, as given by Lamon,
is &iven as follows :
194 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
" His step-mother herself a Christian, and long-
ing for the least sign of faith in him could remem-
ber no circumstance that supported her hope. On
the contrary, she recollected very well that he never
went off into a corner, as has been said, to ponder
the sacred writings, and to wet the page with his
tears of penitence " (Life of Lincoln, pp. 486, 487).
" The Bible, according to Mrs. Lincoln, was not one
of his studies ; ' he sought more congenial books.'
At that time he neither talked nor read upon religious
subjects. If he had any opinions about them, he
kept them to himself" (Ibid, p. 38).
DENNIS F. HANKS.
The next witness is Lincoln's cousin,
Hanks. Mr. Hanks held " the pulpy, red, little
Lincoln' in his arms before he was "twenty-four
hours old," and remained his constant companion
during all the years that he lived in Kentucky and
Indiana. He lived a part of the time in the Lincoln
family, and married one of Lincoln's step-sisters. I
met him recently at Charleston, 111. With evident
delight he rehearsed the story of Lincoln's boyhood,
and reaffirmed the truthfulness of the following
statements attributed to him by Lincoln's biogra-
" Abe wasn't in early life a religious man. He was
a moral man strictly. ... In after life he be-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 195
came more religious ; but the Bible puzzled him,
especially the miracles ' (Every-Day Lii'e of Lin-
coln, p. 54).
" 'Religious songs did not appear to suit him at
all,' says Dennis Hanks ; but of profane ballads and
amorous ditties he knew the words of a vast
4 Hail Columbia, happy land!
If you ain't drunk, I'll be damned,'
a song which Dennis thinks should be warbled only
in the ' fields ;' and tells us they knew and enjoyed
1 all such songs as this ' (Lamou's Life of Lincoln,
pp. 58, 59).
The fitness of the above coarse travesty to be
warbled, even in the fields, may well be doubted.
Lamon would hardly have recorded it, and I cer-
tainly should not quote it, but for the fact that it
strikingly illustrates one phase of Lincoln's " youth-
Among the many Christian hymns which Lincoln
parodied, Mr. Hanks recalls the following :
" How tedious and tasteless the hours."
" When I can read my title clear."
" Oh! to grace how great a debtor!"
u Come, thou fount of every blessing."
196 ABRAHAM LINCOLN!
MRS. MATILDA MOORE.
Mrs. Lincoln's first husband was named Johnston.
By him she had three children, a son and two daugh-
ters. The latter, like their mother, developed into
noble specimens of womanhood ; and both loved
Lincoln as tenderly as though he had been their
own brother. The elder was married to Dennis
Hanks ; the younger, Matilda, married Lincoln's
cousin, Levi Hall, and, after his death, a gentleman
Lamon says that Lincoln in his youth made a
mockery of the popular religion ; not from any lack
of reverence for what he believed to be good, but be-
cause " he thought that a person had better be with-
out it." That he was accustomed to turn so-called
sacred subjects into ridicule is attested by his step-
sister, Mrs. Moore. She says :
" When father and mother would go to church,
Abe would take down the Bible, read a verse, give
out a hymn, and we would sing. Abe was about
fifteen years of age. He preached and we would do
the crying ' 1 (Every-Day Life of Lincoln, p. 71).
On the 28th of April, 1888, the writer, in company I
with Mr. Charles Biggs, of Westfield, 111., visited the
old Lincoln homestead, near Farmington, 111. We
dined with Mr. John Hall, a son of Lincoln's step-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 197
sister Matilda, in the old log-house built by Lincoln's
father sixty years ago, and in which his father and
step-mother died. Mr. Hall, who owns the home-
stead and preserves with zealous care this venerable
relic, is an intelligent farmer over sixty years of age.
He greatly reveres the memory of his illustrious
uncle and loves to dwell on his many noble traits of
character. He stated that the family tradition is
that while Abe was a most honest and humane boy
he was not religious. He referred to the mock ser-
mons he is said to have preached. " At these meet-
ings," said Mr. Hall, " my mother would lead in the
singing while Uncle Abe would lead in prayer.
Among his numerous supplications, he prayed God
to put stockings on the chickens' feet in winter."
William McNeely, of Petersburg, 111., who became
acquainted with Lincoln in 1831, when he arrived at
New Salem on a flatboat, says :
" Lincoln said he did not believe in total depravity,
and although it was not popular to believe it, it was
easier to do right than wrong; that the first thought
was : what was right ? and the second what was
wrong ? Therefore it was easier to do right than
wrong, and easier to take care of, as it would take
care of itself. It took an effort to do wrong, and a
198 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
still greater effort to take care of it ; but do right
and it would take care of itself.
" I was acquainted with him a long time, and I
never knew him to do a wrong act" (Lincoln Me-
morial Album, pp. 393-395).
WILLIAM G. GREEN.
One of Lincoln's early companions at New Salem
was William G. Green. He and Lincoln clerked in
the same store and slept together on the same cot.
The testimony of Mr. Green has not been preserved.
We have simply an observation of his, incidentally
made, the substance of which is thus presented by
" Lincoln's incessant reading of Shakspere and
Burns had much to do in giving to his mind the
' skeptical ' tendency so fully developed by the
labors of his pen in 1834-5, arid in social conversa-
tions during many years of his residence at Spring-
field " (Life of Lincoln, p. 145).
Mr. Green's conclusion, especially in regard to
Burns, is quite generally shared by Lincoln's friends.
Burns's satirical poems were greatly admired by
Lincoln. "Holy Willie's Prayer," one of the most
withering satires on orthodox Christianity ever
penned, was memorized by him. Every one of its
sixteen stanzas, beginning with the following, was
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 199
an Infidel shaft which he delighted to hurl at the
heads of his Christian opponents :
u thou, wha in the heavens dost dwell,
Wha, as it pleasas best thysel',
Sends ane to lieaven and ten to hell,
A' for thy g^ory,
And no for ony guid or ill
They've done afore theel"
JOSHUA F. SPEED.
Another of Lincoln's earliest and best friends was
Joshua F. Speed. When he was licensed as a law-
yer and entered upon his professional career at
Springfield without a client and without a dollar,
Speed assisted him to get a start. W. H. Herndon
was clerking for Speed at the time, and for more
than a year Lincoln, Herndon and Speed roomed
together. Referring to the religious views held by
Lincoln at that time, Mr. Speed, in a lecture, says :
" I have often been asked what were Mr. Lincoln's
religious opinions. When I knew him, in early life,
lie was a skeptic. He had tried hard to be a be-
liever, but his reason could not grasp and solve the
great problem of redemption as taught."
This is the testimony of an orthodox Christian,
and a church-member. Mr. Speed, during the years
that he was acquainted with Lincoln, was not a
member of any church ; but late in life he united
with the Methodist church. As " the wish is father
ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
to the thought," Mr. Speed professed to believe that
Lincoln before his death modified, to some extent,
the radical views of his early manhood.
Soon after Lincoln removed to Springfield, he be-
came acquainted with Mr. Green Caruthers and
remained on intimate terms with him during all the
subsequent years of his life. Mr. Caruthers was a
quiet, unobtrusive old gentleman, universally re-
spected by those who knew him. The substance of
his testimony is as follows :
Lincoln, Bledsoe, the metaphysician, anc
boarded at the Globe hotel in this city. Bledsoe
tended toward Christianity, if he was not a Christian.
Lincoln was always throwing out his Infidelity to
Bledsoe, ridiculing Christianity, and especially the
divinity of Christ."
Another of Lincoln's most intimate Springfield
friends was John Decamp. Mr. Decamp was inter-
viewed by Mr. Herudon regarding Lincoln's religious
views in Julv, 1887. His statement was brief, but
to the point. He says :
"Lincoln was an Infidel."
In 1880, at Bismarck Grove, Kan., the writer of
this delivered a lecture entitled, "Four American
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 201
Infidels," a portion of which was devoted to a pre-
sentation of Lincoln's religious views. In jts report
of the lecture, the Lawrence Standard, edited by
Hon. E. G. Eoss, formerly United States Senator
from Kansas, and more recently Governor of New
Mexico, said :
" In regard to Abraham Lincoln being an Infidel,
the evidence adduced was overwhelming, and was
confirmed by a gentleman present, Mr. Lynan, who
bad known him intimately for thirty years. Mr.
Lynan declared that none but personal acquaintance
could enable one to realize the nobility and purity of
Lincoln's character, but that he was bevond doubt
or question a thorough disbeliever in the Christian
scheme of salvation to the end of his life " (Lawrence
Standard, Sept. 4, 1880).
JAMES B. SPAULDING.
Mr. J. B. Spaulding, well known as one of the
leading nurserymen and horticulturists of the United
States, a man of broad culture and refinement, who
resides near Springfield, became intimately ac-
quainted with Lincoln as early as 1851, and for a
long time resided on the same street with him in
Springfield. Mr. Spaulding says :
'Lincoln perpetrated many an irreverent joke at
the expense of church doctrines. Kegarding the
miraculous conception, he was especially sarcastic.
202 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
He wrote a manuscript as radical as Ingersoll which
his political friends caused to be destroyed."
EZRA STRING HAM.
A short time since I was conversing with a party
of gentlemen in Biverton, 111. It being near Lin-
coln's old home, the subject of his religious belief
was introduced. An old gentleman, who up to this
time had not been taking part in the conversation,
quietly observed : " I think I knew Lincoln's relig-
ious views about as well as anv other man." "What
was he ?" said one of the party. " An Infidel of the
first water," was the prompt response. The old
gentleman was Ezra Stringham, one of Lincoln's
early acquaintances in Illinois.
DR. G. H. AMBROSE.
Dr. G. H. Ambrose, of Waldo, Fla., who was asso-
ciated in the law business at Springfield from 1846
to 1849 with a relative of Mrs. Lincoln, says :
" Mr. Lincoln was an Infidel an outspoken one."
J. H. CHENERY.
Mr. J. H. Chenery, one of Springfield's pioneers
for many years owner and proprietor of the leading
hotel of Springfield says :
" Heed tried to prove that Lincoln was a church
man ; but evervbodv here knows that he was not.
Once in a great while, and only once in a great
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 203
while, I saw him accompany his wife and children
to church. His attacks upon the church were most
bitter and sarcastic. He wrote a book against
Christianity, but his friends got away with it."
A few years ago there died near Atchison, Kan.,
an old gentleman named Perkins. He was poor, but
honest, and a bright man intellectually. He was a
son of Major Perkins who was killed in the Black
Hawk war. Lincoln after the fight discovered the
scalp of Major Perkins, which his savage assassin had
taken but lost. His first impulse was to keep it and
take it home to the family of the dead soldier. Then
realizing that it would only tend to intensify their
grief, he opened the grave and deposited it with the
body. This incident led to an intimate acquaint-
ance between Lincoln and the younger Perkins. In
June, 1880, Mr. Perkins made the following state-
ment relative to Lincoln's religious belief :
" During all the time that I was acquainted with
Abraham Lincoln I know that he was what the church
calls an Infidel. I do not believe that he ever
changed his opinions. When Coif ax was in Atchi-
son I had a talk with him about Lincoln. Among
other things, I asked him if Lincoln had ever been
converted to Christianity. He told me that he had
204 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
Mr. Perkins, an old lawyer and journalist of Illi-
nois, who was acquainted with Lincoln for upward
of twenty years, and who was his associate counsel
in se\ eral important cases, writing from Belleview.
Fla., under date of August 22, 1887, says :
" The unfair efforts that Christians have been
putting forth to drag Lincoln into their waning faith
betray a pitiable imbecility. Were it possible for
them to get the world to believe that Washington,
Jefferson, and Lincoln, all prayed, had faith, and
were washed in the blood of the Lamb, would that
prove the inspiration of their Bible, harmonize its
contradictions, put a ray of reason in its gross ab-
surdities, or humanize the first one of its numerous
" I knew Mr. Lincoln from the spring of 1838 till
his death. Like Archibald Williams, our contem-
porary, an able Lord Coke lawyer, he no more be-
lieved in the inspiration of the Bible than Hume,
Paine, or Ingersoll. Less inclined openly to de-
nounce its absurdities and cruelties, or to antagonize
the well-meaning credulous professors, than was
Williams. Mr. Lincoln had no faith whatever in the
first miracle of the Bible, or the scheme of bloody
redemption it teaches. To attribute such sentiments
to him, is to tarnish his well-earned reputation for
common sense, and to impair the estimation of his
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 205
countrymen and the world of his high sense of hu-
manity, justice, and honor.
" Two of my Presbyterian friends at Indian Point,
near Petersburg, told me that they had interviewed
Mr. Lincoln to prevent his impending duel with
Shields claiming that it was contrary to the Bible
and Christianity. He admitted that the dueling
code was barbarous and regretted much to find him-
self in its toils, but said he, ' The Bible is not my
book, nor Christianity my profession.'
In some reminiscences of Lincoln, recently pub-
lished, referring to a celebrated murder case in
which they were counsel for the defendant, Mr.
Perkins savs :
" I reminded him that from the first I had seen,
and to him said, the case is hopeless, and that he
must have expected to work a miracle to save the
accused. He answered that I did him injustice,
since he had no faith in miracles."
Alluding to Lincoln's alleged change of heart, he
" He never changed a sentiment on the subject up
to his final sleep."
Mr. Gorley, who was the confidential friend of
Lincoln, and who spent much time with him, both at
home and abroad, made the following statement :
206 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
" Lincoln belonged to no religious sect. He was
religious in his own way not as others generally.
I do not think he ever had a change of heart, relig-
iously speaking. Had he ever had a change of
heart he would have told me. He could not have
WILLIAM JAYNE, M.D.
Dr. Jayne, who was appointed Governor of Dakota
by Lincoln, is one of the most prominent citizens of
Springfield, and was one of Lincoln's ablest and
most faithful political friends. He secured Lincoln's
nomination for the Legislature once, and was one of
the first to pit him against Douglas. In a letter to
me, dated August 18, 1887, Dr. Jayne says :
" His general reputation among his neighbors and
friends of twenty-five years' standing was that of a
disbeliever in the accepted faith of orthodox Chris-
tians. His mind was purely logical in its construc-
tion and action. He believed nothing except what
was susceptible of demonstration. . . . His most
intimate friends here, and close to him in the confi-
dential relations of life, assert, in regard to those
who claim for Lincoln a faith in the orthodox Chris-
tian belief, that the claim is a fraud and utter non-
HON. JESSE K. DUBOIS.
Jesse K. Dubois, for a time State Auditor of Illi-
nois, a noble and gifted man, and one whom Lincoln
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 207
dearly loved, once related an anecdote which shows
that if Lincoln did believe in a Supreme Being, he
had little reverence for the God of Christianity. In
company with Dubois, he was visiting a family in or
near Springfield. It was summer, and while Dubois
was in the house with the family, Lincoln occupied a
seat in the yard with his feet resting against a tree,
as was his wont. The lady, who was a very zealous
Christian, called attention to his appearance and
commented rather severely upon his ugliness. When
they returned home Dubois referred to the lady's
remarks. Lincoln was silent for a moment, and then
said : " Dubois, I know that I am ugly, but she
worships a God who is uglier than I am."
HQN. JOSEPH GILLESPIE.
Judge Gillespie, of Ed wards ville, 111., one of Lin-
coln's most valued friends, writes as follows :
" Mr. Lincoln seldom said anything on the subject
of religion. He said once to me that he never could
reconcile the prescience of Deity with the uncer-
tainty of events."
" It was difficult," says Judge Gillespie, " for him
to believe without demonstration."
JUDGE STEPHEN T. LOGAN.
Lincoln was admitted to the bar in 1837, when he
was twenty-eight years of age, Judge Logan being
on the bench at the time. Soon after his admission
208 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
he formed a partnership with John T. Stuart which
existed nearly four years, or until Mr. Stuart entered
Congress. He then became the partner of Judge
Logan, and continued in business with him until
1843, when he united his practice with that of Mr.
Herndon. The testimony of Mr. Stuart and Mr.
Herndon has already been given. No formal state-
ment of Judge Logan concerning this question has
been preserved. All that I have been able to find is
contained in a letter from Mr. Herndon dated Dec.
22, 1888. Mr. Herndon wrote in relation to Lincoln's
letter of consolation to his dying father. In Lin-
coln's letter, while Christ and Christianity are wholly
ignored, there is an implied recognition of immortal-
ity and an expressed hope that he may meet his
father again. Lincoln's friends, for the most part,
consider the letter merely conventional, not an ex-
pression of his real sentiments, but simply an effort
to console his Christian father whom he could never
meet again on earth. Mr. Herndon, however, is
inclined to believe that while the tone of the letter is
not exactly in accordance with the views generally
held by Lincoln, it is yet a sincere expression of the
feelings he entertained at the time. Referring to
this letter, Mr. Herndon says :
" I showed the letter to Logan, Stuart, et at. Logan
laughed in my face as much as to say : * Herndon, are
you so green as to believe that letter to be Lincoln's
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 209
real ideas?' I cannot give the exact words of
Logan, but he in substance said : ' Lincoln was an In-
fidel of the most radical type.' "
HON. LEONARD SWETT.
I close this division of my evidence with the testi-
mony of that gifted lawyer and honored citizen of
Illinois, Leonard Swett. Previous to his removal to
Chicago, in 1865, Mr. Swett resided in Bloomington,
and for a dozen years traveled the old Eighth
Judicial Circuit with Lincoln. Few men knew Lin-
coln better than did Swett, and none was held in
higher esteem by Lincoln than he. It was he who
placed Lincoln in nomination for the Presidency at
Chicago in 1860. I quote from a letter written by
Mr. Swett in 1866 :
" You ask me whether he [Lincoln] changed his
religious opinions toward the close of his life. I
think not. As he became involved in matters of the
greatest importance, full of great responsibility and
great doubt, a feeling of religious reverence, a belief
in God and his justice and overruling providence in-
creased with him. He was always full of natural
religion. He believed in God as much as the most
approved church member, yet he judged of him by
the same system of generalization as he judged every-
thing else. He had very little faith in ceremonials
or forms. In fact he cared nothing for the form of
If his religion were to be judged
by the lines and rules of church creeds, he would fall
far short of the standard."
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 211
TESTIMONY OF FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES OF LINCOLN
WHO KNEW HIM IN ILLINOIS.
Hon. W. H. T. Wakefield Hon. D. W. Wilder Dr. B. F. Gardner
Hon. J. K. Vandemark A. Jeffrey Dr. Arch E. McNeal Charles
McGrew Edward Butler Joseph Stafford Judge A. D. Norton
J. L. Morrell Mahlon Ross L. Wilson H. K. Magie Hon. James
Tuttle Col. F. S. Rutherford Judge Robert Leachman Hon. Orin B.
Gould M. S. Growin Col. R. G. Ingersoll Leonard W. Volk Joseph
Jefferson Hon. E. B. Washburn Hon. E. M. Haines.
I WILL next present the evidence that I have
gleaned from the lips or pens of personal friends of
Lincoln who were acquainted with him in Illinois.
The relations of these persons to Lincoln were, for
the most part, less intimate than were those of the
persons named in the preceding chapter ; but all of
them enjoyed in no small degree his confidence and
HON. W. H. T. WAKEFIELD.
Mr. Wakefield, our first witness, is a son of the
distinguished jurist, Judge J. A. Wakefield. He is
a prominent journalist, and was the nominee of the
Labor party, for Vice-President, in the Presi-
212 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
dential contest of 1888. In a letter to the author,
dated Lawrence, Kan., Sept. 28, 1880, Mr. Wake-
field says :
" My father, the late Judge J. A. Wakefield, was
a life-long friend of Lincoln's, they having served
through the Black Hawk war together and been in
the Illinois Legislature together, during which latter
time Lincoln boarded with my father in Vandalia,
which was then the state capital. I remember of
his visiting my father at Galena, in 1844 or 1845.
They continued to correspond until Lincoln's death.
" My father was a member of the Methodist church
and frequently spoke of and lamented Lincoln's In-
fidelity, and referred to the man}- arguments between
them on the subject.
" The noted minister, Peter Cartwright, boarded
with my father at the same time that Lincoln did, and
my father and mother told me of the many theolog-
ical and philosophical arguments indulged in by
Lincoln and Cartwright, and of the fact that they
always attracted many interested listeners and
usually ended by Cartwright's getting very angry
and the spectators being convulsed with laughter at
Lincoln's dry wit and humorous comparisons."
Lincoln's legislative career at Vandalia extended
from 1834 to 1837. It was about the beginning of
this period that he wrote his book against Christian-
ity. He was thoroughly informed and enthusiastic
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 213
in his Infidel views, and it is not to be wondered at
that on theological questions, he was able to
vanquish in debate even so eminent a theologian as
Peter Cartwright. Ten years later, Lincoln was the
Whig, and Cartwright the Democratic candidate for
Congress. In this campaign a determined effort was
made by the church to defeat Lincoln on account of
his Infidelity. But his popularity, his reputation for
honesty, his recognized ability, and his transcendent
powers on the stump, carried him successfully
through, and he was triumphantly elected.
HON. D. W. WILDER.
One of the most gifted and honorable of Western
journalists is D. W. Wilder, of Kansas. He was
Survevor General of Kansas before it was admitted
into the Union, and after it became a state, he held
the office of State Auditor. Many years ago Gen.
Wilder wrote and published an editorial on Lincoln's
religious views in which he affirmed that Lincoln
was a disbeliever in Christianity. The article ex-
cited the wrath of the clergy, among them the Rev.
D. P. Mitchell, the leading Methodist divine of
Kansas, who replied with much warmth, but with-
out refuting the statements of Gen. Wilder. Some
of my Western readers will recall the article and the
controversy it provoked. I have been unable to
procure a copy of it, but in its place I present the
214 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
following extract from a letter received from Gen.
Wilder, dated St. Joseph, Mo., Dec. 29, 1881 :
" Lincoln believed in God, but not in the divinity
of Christ. At first, like Franklin, he was probably
an Atheist. Although a ' forgiving ' man himself, he
did not believe that any amount of * penitence ' could
affect the logical effects of violated law. He has a
remarkable passage on that theme."
Concerning Lincoln's partner, Mr. Herndon, with
whom he was acquainted, Gen. Wilder says :
" Write to Win. H. Herndon, a noble man, Spring-
field, 111. Send him your book ['Life of Paine'].
He will reply. The stories told about him are lies."
B. F. GARDNER, M.D.
Dr. Gardner, an old and respected resident of
Atlanta, 111., in March, 1887, made the following
statement in regard to Lincoln's views :
" I knew Lincoln from 1854 up to the time he left
Springfield. He was an Infidel. He did not change
his belief. Herndon told the truth in his lecture.
Lincoln did not believe that prayer moved God.
When he requested the prayers of his neighbors on
leaving Springfield for Washington, he saw that a
storm was coming and that he must have the sup-
port of the church."
These words of Lincoln in his farewell speech
requesting the prayers of his friends, though used
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 215
merely in a conventional way, have been cited by
Holland, Arnold, and others, to prove that he be-
lieved in the efficacy of prayer. That no such im-
port was attached to them at the time is admitted by
Holland himself. He says : " This parting address
was telegraphed to every part of the country, and
was strangely misinterpreted. So little was the
man's character understood that his simple and
earnest request that his neighbors should pray for
him was received by many as an evidence both of
his weakness and his hypocrisy. No President had
ever before asked the people, in a public address, to
pray for him. It sounded like the cant of the con-
venticle to ears unaccustomed to the language of
piety from the lips of politicians. The request was
tossed about as a joke ' old Abe's last ' " (Holland's
Life of Lincoln, p. 254).
HON. J. K. VANDEMARK,
J. K. Vandemark, who formerly resided near
Springfield, 111., and who was well acquainted with
Lincoln, on the 13th of October, 1887, at Valparaiso,
Neb., testified as follows :
"I met Lincoln often had many conversations
with him in his office. To assert that he was a be-
liever in Christianity is absurd. He had no faith in
the dogmas of the church."
Mr. Vandemark at the time his testimony was
ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
given was a member of the State Senate of Ne-
Mr. Jeffrey, who has resided near Waynesville,
111., for a period of fifty years, and who was in the
habit of attending court with Lincoln, year after
year, in an interview on the 1st of March, 1887, made
the following statement :
" Lincoln was decidedly Liberal. He admitted that
he wrote a book against Christianitv. In later
years he seldom talked on this subject, but he did
not change his belief. A thrust at the doctrine of
endless punishment always pleased him. This doc-
trine he abhorred."
DR. ARCH E. McNEALL.
Dr. McNeall, an old physician of Bowen, 111.,
who was a delegate to the* Decatur Convention
which brought Lincoln forward as a candidate for
the Presidency, says :
" I met Lincoln often during our political cam-
paigns, and was quite well acquainted with him. I
know that he was a Liberal thinker."
Dr. McGrew is a resident of Coles County, 111.
the county in which nearly all of Lincoln's relatives
have resided for sixty years. He is a cousin of Hon.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 217
Allen G. Thurman, and is a man of sterling charac-
ter. He was for a time related to Lincoln, in a
business way, and met him frequently. I met Dr.
McGrew in 1888, and when I propounded the
question, " Was Lincoln a Christian ?" he replied :
" Lincoln was not a Christian. He was cautious
and reserved and seldom said anything about relig-
ion except when he was alone with a few companions
whose opinions were similar to his. On such occa-
sions he did not hesitate to express his unbelief."
Early in 1858, Lincoln delivered his memorable
Springfield speech which prepared the way for his
debates with Douglas, and made him President of the
United States. Mr. Edward Butler, who resided in
Springfield for a period of twenty-six years, and who
was well acquainted with Lincoln, was leader of the
band which furnished the music on this occasion.
In a letter written at Lyons, Kan., Jan. 16, 1890, Mr.
Butler relates some incidents connected with the
meeting, and quotes a passage from Lincoln's speech
to the effect that from the agitation of the slavery
question, truth would in the end prevail. Alluding
to this passage, Mr. Butler says :
" Shortly after the meeting referred to, I chanced
to be talking with Lincoln and quizzingly enquired
Jiow he could reconcile this and similar utterances
with Holy Writ ? Without committing himself, he
enquired if I had read Gregg's ' Creed of Christen-
dom.' I informed him that I had not. ' Then/ said
he, ' read that book and perhaps you may ascertain
my views about truth prevailing.' I never conversed
with Lincoln afterwards, but I obtained the book,
which I keep treasured in my library. I am well
convinced that no man who is used to weighing
evidence, especially of Lincoln's humane and un-
biased disposition, can read the book in question
without truth coming to the surface."
It is hardly necessary to state that Gregg's " Creed
of Christendom " is a standard work in Infidel litera-
ture, one of the most scholarly, powerful and con-
vincing arguments against orthodox Christianity
Joseph Stafford, a resident of Galesburg, 111., and
an acquaintance of Lincoln, says :
" I know that Lincoln was a Liberal."
JUDGE A. D. NORTON.
In April, 1893, at Ardmore, I. T., I met Judge
Norton, of Gainesville, Tex., an old acquaintance of
Lincoln and Douglas. Judge Norton related many
interesting reminiscences of these noted men.
Speaking of Lincoln's religion, he said :
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 219
" For nearly fifty years I was a resident of Illinois.
I practiced for many years in the same courts with
Lincoln and knew him well. He was an Infidel. In
his early manhood he wrote a book against Chris-
tianity which his friends prevented him from pub-
lishing. Because he had become famous, the church
preached him from a theatre to heaven."
/. L. MORRELL.
Mr. J. L. Morrell, a worthy citizen of Virden, 111.,
who came to Illinois soon after Lincoln did, settled
in the adjoining county to him, and like him fol-
lowed for a time the avocation of surveyor, in a
conversation with the writer, on the 8th of February,
1889, made the following statement :
"I knew Lincoln well met him often. His relig-
ion was the religion of common sense. He went
into this subject as deep as any man. He did not
believe the inconsistencies of theology. He was not
MAHLON ROSS, ESQ.
Squire Ross, another old resident of Virden, 111.,
a lawyer, and a writer of some repute, says :
" I was acquainted with Lincoln, but never talked
with him on religion. He did not belong to church,
and his friends say that he was not a Christian."
220 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
Similar to the above is the testimony of Mr.
Lusk Wilson, a prominent and respectable citizen of
Litchfield, 111. :
" I was acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, but
never heard him give his views on the subject of
religion. His partner, Herndon, and other friends,
state that he was not a believer in Christianity."
HON. JAMES TUTTLE.
Two miles east of Atlanta, 111., resides one of the
pioneers of Illinois, James Tuttle, now over eighty
years of age. He was a member of the Constitu-
tional Convention of 1847, and is a man universally
esteemed for his love of truth and honesty. Mr.
Tuttle's residence is situated on the state road
leading from Springfield to Bloomington. In going
from Springfield to Bloomingfcon, to attend court,
and in returning home again, Lincoln always stopped
over night with Mr. Tuttle. Theological questions
were favorite topics with both of them, and the
evening hours were usually spent in conversations of
this character. Mr. Tuttle accordingly became well
acquainted with Lincoln's religious views. Feb. 26,
1887, at Minier, 111., he made the following statement
relative to them :
" Mr. Lincoln did not believe in Christianity. He
denounced it unsparingly. He had the greatest con-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN
tempt for religious revivals, and called those who
took part in them a set of ignoramuses. He was
one of the most ardent admirers of Thomas Paine I
ever met. He was continually quoting from the
1 Age of Reason.' Said he, ' I never tire of reading
Mr. Tuttle is confident that Lincoln always re-
mained a Freethinker, and believes that those who
claim to have evidence from him to the contrary,
willfully affirm what they know to be false.
H. K. MAGIE.
Mr. Magie formerly lived in Illinois, and was for
a time connected with the State Department at
Springfield. Writing from Brooklyn, N. Y., March
19, 1888, he says :
" My acquaintance with Mr. Lincoln was limited,
as I did not reside in Springfield during his resi-
dence there. I met him during his campaign with
Douglas at different times, and was with him once
for three days. . . . Mr. Lincoln was a Free-
thinker of the Thomas Paine type. There have been
picked up some of Mr. Lincoln's utterances about
* Providence,' * God,' and the like, on which an at-
tempt is made to make him out a Christian. Those
who knew him intimately agree in the statement that
he was a pronounced skeptic."
Mr. Magie also refers to the Infidel pamphlet
222 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
written by Lincoln. His knowledge regarding this,
however, was derived, not from Lincoln himself, but
from his friends. He says :
" At one time he wrote a criticism of the New
Testament which he proposed to publish and which
his friends succeeded in having suppressed, solely
because of their regard for his political future."
In a recent contribution to a New York paper from
Washington, D. C., Mr. Magie writes as follows :
" I have always been fully persuaded in my own
mind that it would have been utterly impossible for
a man possessing that intuitive wisdom, keenness of
logic, and discernment of truth, which were the
marked characteristics of Mr. Lincoln's mind, ever
to have subscribed to the atrocious doctrines of the
Christian church. He was developed far above it,
and although making no war upon the church, he
did not hesitate to speak his mind freely upon these
subjects upon all proper occasions. I lived in
Springfield among his old neighbors for many years,
and I have talked with many of them, and to those
who had good opportunity to know his views touch-
ing religious matters. All, without exception,
classed him among the skeptics. It was not until
after his death that he was claimed as a Christian.
" I am sorry for Newton Bateman. He has placed
himself in a most awkward predicament by trying to
keep out of one. . . . He permitted Mr. Holland
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 223
to circulate an atrocious falsehood in his * Life of
Lincoln* rather than incur ' unpleasant notoriety ' by
a firm and courageous denial."
" It is not a matter of much importance as to just
what Abraham Lincoln did believe concerning God,
the Bible, or the man Jesus, but when we discover
an earnest, persistent, mean, and wicked attempt by
lying and deceitful men to pervert the truth in this
matter, in order that their ' holy religion ' shall profit
by their lies, the matter does become of some impor-
tance, and I am glad that Mr. has taken hold
of this subject with that zeal and earnestness which
usually characterize his great ability, and from what
I know in this matter I can assure all whom it may
concern that by the time he is through with the sub-
ject it will be deemed settled that Mr. Lincoln was
not a hypocrite, neither was he a believer in the
monstrous and superstitious doctrines of the Chris-
The foregoing evidence, with the exception o_ a
portion of Mr. Magie's testimony, was all given to
the writer by the witnesses themselves, either by
letter or orally, and he hereby certifies to its faith-
ful transcription. This evidence is from men whose
characters as witnesses cannot be impeached, and it
is hardly possible that one of them will ever favor
the other side with a disclaimer.
COL. F. S. RUTHERFORD.
I wish now to record a statement from Colonel
Rutherford, a well-known citizen and soldier of
Illinois. It was not made to the writer, but was
made during the war to Mr. W. W. Eraser, a member
of his regiment, and a man of unquestionable
veracity. I will let Mr. Eraser present it, together
with the circumstances which called it out. I quote
from a letter dated Ottawa, Kan., Dec. 16, 1881 :
" During the siege of Vicksburg our colonel, F. S.
Rutherford, Colonel of the 97th 111. Vol. Inft., was
about to leave us, and I went to see him about tak-
ing a small package to Alton his home and mine.
He had been sick and quite unable to do active ser-
vice. During our conversation I said that many of
the Alton boys did not like to be left under the com-
mand of . Colonel Rutherford then said :
* If my life is worth anything I owe it as much to my
family as my country, and it will be worthless to
either if I stay much longer in camp, but I hate to
leave the boys.' Colonel Rutherford said that he
had stumped his district for Mr. Lincoln, and had
expected, from Mr. Lincoln's promises, something
better than a colonelcy. I told Colonel Rutherford
that I was sorry to hear that, as I had always thought
so well of Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Rutherford then said :
* What more could you expect of an Infidel ?' I said :
* Why, Colonel, doesn't Lincoln believe in a God ?'
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 225
He replied : * Well, be may believe in God, but he
doesn't believe in the Bible nor Christ. I know it,
for I have heard him make fun of them and say that
Christ was a bastard if Joseph was not his father,
and I have some sheets of paper now at home that
he wrote, making fun of the Bible."
JUDGE ROBERT LEACHMAN.
The venerable Southern jurist, Judge Leachman,
was one of Lincoln's intimate and valued friends.
He is a Christian, but candidly confesses that Lin-
coln was not a believer. In the autumn of 1889, at
Anniston, Ala., Judge Leachman made the following
statement to Mr. W. S. Andres, of Portsmouth, O. :
" Lincoln was not such a Christian as the term is
used to imply by church members and church-going
people. He was in the strictest sense a moralist
He looked to actions and not to belief. He greatly
admired the Golden Kule, and was one of those who
thought that ' One world at a time ' was a good
idea. . . . He thought this a good place to be
happy as i g shown by his wonderful love for liberty
and mercy. No, I can truthfully say, Abraham Lin-
coln was not a Christian."
HON. ORIN B. GOULD.
Another friend and admirer of Lincoln was Orin
B. Gould, of Franklin Furnace, O. Mr. Gould was
one of the noted men of Southern Ohio. He was a
man of sterling worth and extensive knowledge, and
was familiarly known as the " Sage of the Furnace."
He became acquainted with Lincoln in Illinois at an
early day, and a close friendship existed between
them while Lincoln lived. Mr. Gould survived his
illustrious friend nearly a quarter of a century, dying
recently at his beautiful home on the banks of the
Ohio. Previous to his death the question of Lin-
coln's religion was presented to him and his own
views on the subject solicited. His response was as
" He, like myself, recognized no monsters for Gods.
He, like myself, discarded the divinity of Christ, and
the idea of a hell's fire. He, like myself, admired
Christ as a man, and believed the devil and evil to
be simply ' truth misunderstood.' He, like myself,
thought good wherever found should be accepted
and the bad rejected."
M. S. GOWIN.
Mr. Gowin, an old and prominent citizen, and a
Justice of the Peace, of McCune, Kan., in a recent
article, has this to say regarding Lincoln:
"I lived near Springfield, 111., from the time that
I was a child, and at the time Lincoln came before
the people, and during the time he was President,
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 227
his enemies called him an Infidel, and his friends
did not deny it."
COL, ROBERT G. INGERSQLL.
On the eighty-fourth anniversary of Lincoln's
birth, Col. Ingersoll delivered in New York his
masterly oration on Abraham Lincoln. In this
oration he affirmed that the religion of Lincoln
was the religion of Voltaire and Paine. Immediately
after its delivery Gen. Collis, of New York, ad-
dressed the following note to Col. Ingersoll :
"Dear Col. Ingersoll : I have just returned home
from listening to your most entertaining lecture upon
the life of Abraham Lincoln. I thank you sincerely
for all that was good in it, and that entitles me to be
frank in condemning what I consider was bad. You
say that Lincoln's religion was the religion of Vol-
taire and Tom Paine. I know not where you get
your authority for this, but if the statement be true
Lincoln himself was untrue, for no man invoked ' the
gracious favor of Almighty God ' in every effort of
his life with more apparent fervor than did he, and
this God was not the Deists' God but the God whom
he worshiped under the forms of the Christian
Church, of which he was a member.
" I do not write this in defense of his religion or as
objecting to yours, but I think it were better for the
228 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
truth of history that you should blame him for what
he was than commend him for what he was not.
" Sincerely yours,
" Charles H. T. Collis."
In answer to the above Col. Ingersoll penned the
following reply :
" Gen. Charles H. T. Collis,
" My dear sir :
"I have just received your letter in which you
criticise a statement made by me to the effect that
Lincoln's religion was the religion of Voltaire and
Thomas Paine, and you add, ' I know not where you
get your authority for this, but if the statement be
true Lincoln himself was untrue, for no man ever in-
voked the gracious favor of Almighty God in every
effort of his life with more apparent fervor than did
"You seem to belaboring under the impression
that Voltaire was not a believer in God, and that he
could not have invoked the gracious favor of
Almighty God. The truth is that Voltaire was not
only a believer in God, but even in special Provi-
dence. I know that the clergy have always de-
nounced Voltaire as an Atheist, but this can be
accounted for in two ways : (1) By the ignorance of
the clergy, and (2) by their contempt of truth.
Thomas Paine wjis also a believer in God, and wrote
his creed as follows : ' I believe in one God and no
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 229
more, and hope for immortality.' The ministers
have also denounced Paine as an Atheist.
" You will, therefore, see that your first statement
is without the slightest foundation in fact. Lincoln
could be perfectly true to himself if he agreed with
the religious sentiments of Voltaire and Paine, and
yet invoke the gracious favor of Almighty God.
" You also say, ' This God ' (meaning the God
whose favor Lincoln invoked) ' was not the Deists'
God.' The Deists believe in an Infinite Being, who
created and preserves the universe. The Christians
believe no more. Deists and Christians believe in
the same God, but they differ as to what this God
has done, and to what this God will do. You fur-
ther say that ' Lincoln worshiped his God under the
forms of the Christian Church, of which he was a
member.' Again you are mistaken. Lincoln was
never a member of any church. Mrs. Lincoln stated
a few years ago that Mr. Lincoln was not a Chris-
tian. Hundreds of his acquaintances have said the
same thing. Not only so, but many of them have
testified that he was a Freethinker ; that he denied
the inspiration of the Scriptures, and that he always
insisted that Christ was not the son of God, and that
the dogma of the atonement was and is an absurd-
" I will very gladly pay you one thousand dollars
for your trouble to show that one statement in
ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
your letter is correct even one. And now, to quote
you, ' Do you not think it were better for the truth
of history that you should state the facts about
Lincoln, and that you should commend him for what
he was rather than for what he was not ?'
" Yours truly,
" K. G. Ingersoll. 1
LEONARD W. VQLK.
In the spring of 1860, just before Lincoln was
nominated for the Presidency, the celebrated sculp-
tor, Volk, made a bust of him. He spent a week in
Chicago and made daily sittings in the artist's
studio. Mr. Yolk relates the following incident,
which hardly accords with the tales told about Lin-
coln's reverence for the Sabbath, and his love for
church services :
" He entered my studio on Sunday morning, re-
marking that a friend at the hotel had invited him
to go to church. ' But,' said Mr. Lincoln, ' I thought
I'd rather come and sit for the bust. The fact is,'
he continued, 'I don't like to hear cut-and-dried
It is difficult for orthodox Christians to reconcile
Lincoln's fondness for the play with his reputed
piety. That his last act was a visit to the theater is
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 231
a fact that stands out in ghastly prominence to
them. To break its force they offer various explana-
tions. Some sav that he went to avoid the office-
seekers ; others that Mrs. Lincoln compelled him to
go ; and still others that he was led there by fate.
The truth is he was a frequent attendant at the
theater. He went there much oftener than he went
to church. The visit of a clergyman annoyed him,
but the society of actors he enjoyecl. He greatly
admired the acting of Edwin Booth. He sent a note
to the actor Hackett, praising him for his fine pres-
entation of Falstaff. He called John McCulloch to
his box one night and congratulated him on his suc-
cessful rendition of the part he was playing.
In his autobiography, which recently appeared in
the Century Magazine, Joseph Jefferson gives some
interesting reminiscences of Lincoln. In the earlier
part of his dramatic career he was connected with
a theatrical company, the managers of which, one of
whom was his father, built a theater in Springfield,
111. A conflict between the preachers and players
ensued. The church was powerful then, and the
city joined with the church to suppress the theater.
The history of the struggle and its termination, as
narrated by Mr. Jefferson, is as follows :
"In the midst of their rising fortunes a heavy
blow fell upon them. A religious revival was in
progress at the time, and the fathers of the church
232 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
not only launched forth against us in their sermons,
but by some political maneuver got the city to pass
a new law enjoining a heavy license against our
' unholy ' calling ; I forget the amount, but it was
large enough to be prohibitory. Here was a terrible
condition of affairs all our available funds invested,
the Legislature in session, the town full of people,
and by a heavy license denied the privilege of open-
ing the new theater !
"In the midst of their trouble a young lawyer
called on the managers. He had heard of the in-
justice, and offered, if they would place the matter
in his hands, to have the license taken off, declaring
that he only desired to see fair play, and he would
accept no fee whether he failed or succeeded. The
case was brought up before the council. The young
man began his harangue. He handled the subject
with tact, skill, and humor, tracing the history of
the drama from the time when Thespis acted in a
cart to the stage of to-day. He illustrated his
speech with a number of anecdotes, and kept the
council in a roar of laughter ; his good humor pre-
vailed, and the exorbitant tax was taken off.
" This young lawyer was very popular in Spring-
field, and was honored and beloved by all who knew
him, and, after the time of which I write, he held
rather an important position in the Government of
the TJnited States. He now lies buried near Spring-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 233
field, under a monument commemorating his great-
ness and his virtues and his name was Abraham
HON. ELIHU B. WASHBURN.
The ball-room, too, had its attractions for him.
Some years ago Hon. E. B. Washburn contributed
to the North American Review a lengthy article on
Lincoln. When President Taylor was inaugurated,
Lincoln was serving his term in Congress. Alluding
to the inaugural ball, Mr. Washburn says :
" A small number of mutual friends including
Mr. Lincoln made up a party to attend the inau-
guration ball together. It was by far the most
brilliant inauguration ball ever given. . . . We
did not take our departure until three or four
o'clock in the morning ' (Keminiscences of Lincoln,
HON. ELIJAH M. HAINES.
In February, 1859, Governor Bissell gave a recep-
tion in Springfield which Lincoln attended. Hon.
E. M. Haines, then a member of the Legislature, and
one of Lincoln's supporters for the Senate, referring
to the affair, says :
" Dancing was going on in the adjacent rooms, and
Mr. Lincoln invited my wife to join him in the
dancing, which she did, and he apparently took
much pleasure in the recreation " (Every-Day Life
of Lincoln, p. 308).
Early in January, 1863, President and Mrs. Lin-
coln gave a reception and ball at the White House.
This was a severe shock to the Christians of the
country, and provoked a storm of censure from the
According to Ninian Edwards, Lincoln is con-
verted to Christianity about 1848. In March, 1849,
he attends the inauguration ball and " Won't go home
till morning." According to Dr. Smith, he is con-
verted in 1858. In February, 1859, he attends and
participates in a ball at Springfield. According to
Noah Brooks, he is converted in 1862. In January,
1863, he gives a ball himself. In every instance he
retires from the altar only to enter the ball-room.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 235
TESTIMONY OF FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES OF LINCOLN
WHO KNEW HIM IN WASHINGTON.
Hon. Geo. W. Julian Hon. John B. Alley Hon. Hugh McCul-
loch Doim Piatt Hon. Schuyler Colfax Hon. Geo. S. Boutwell
Hon. Wm. D. Kelly E. H. Wood Dr. J. J. Thompson Rev. James
Shrigley Hon. John Covode Jas. E. Murdock Hon. M. B. Field
Harriet Beecher Stowe Hon. J. P. Usher Hon. S. P. Chase
Frederick Douglas Mr. Defrees Hon. Wm. H. Seward Judge Aaron
Goodrich Nicolay and Hay's " Life of Lincoln " Warren Chase
Hon. A. J. Grover Judge James M. Nelson.
THE evidence of more than fifty witnesses has
already been adduced to prove that Lincoln was not
a Christian in Illinois. Those who at first were so
forward to claim that he was, have generally recog-
nized the futility of the claim. They have aban-
doned it, and content themselves with affirming that
he became a Christian after he went to Washington.
These claimants, being for the most part rigid sec-
tarians themselves, endeavor to convince the world
that he not only became a Christian, but an orthodox
Christian, and a sectarian ; that even from a Calvin-
istic standpoint, he was " sound not only on the
truth of the Christian religion but on all its funda-
mental doctrines and teachings." The testimony of
Colonel Larnon, Judge Davis, Mrs. Lincoln, and
Colonel Nicolay, not only refutes this claim, but
shows that he was not in any just sense of the term
a Christian when he died. In addition to this evi-
dence, I will now present the testimony of a score of
other witnesses who knew him in Washington.
These witnesses do not all affirm that he was a total
disbeliever in Christianity ; but a part of them do,
while the testimony of the remainder is to the effect
that he was not orthodox as claimed.
HON. GEORGE W. JULIAN.
Our first witness is George W. Julian, of Indiana.
Mr. Julian was for many years a leader in Congress,
was the Anti-Slavery candidate for Vice-President,
in 1852, and one of the founders of the party that
elected Lincoln to the Presidency. He was one of
Lincoln's warmest personal friends and intimately
acquainted with him at Washington. Writing to me
from Santa Fe, N. M., under date of March 13, 1888,
Mr. Julian says :
" I knew him [Lincoln] well, and I know that he
was not a Christian in any old-fashioned orthodox
sense of the word, but only a religious Theist. He
was, substantially, such a Christian as Jefferson,
Franklin, Washington, and John Adams ; and it is
perfectly idle to assert the contrary."
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 237
HON. JOHN B. ALLEY.
In 1886, the publishers of the North American
Review issued one of the most unique, original, and
interesting works on Lincoln that has yet appeared
" Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln." It was
edited by Allen Thorndike Bice, and comprises, in
addition to a biographical sketch of Lincoln's life by
the editor, thirty-three articles on Lincoln written
by as many distinguished men of his day. One of
the best articles in this volume is from the pen of
one of Boston's merchant princes, John B. Alley.
Mr. Alley was for eight years a member of Congress
from Massachusetts, serving in this capacity during
all the years that Lincoln was President. To his
ability and integrity as a statesman this remarkable
yet truthful tribute has been paid : " No bill he
ever reported and no measure he ever advocated
during his long term of service failed to receive the
approbation of the House." Lincoln recognized his
many sterling qualities, and throughout the war his
relations with the President were of the most
intimate character. Mr. Alley is one of the many
who know that Lincoln was not a Christian, and one
of the few who have the courage to affirm it. He
" In his religious views Mr. Lincoln was very nearly
what we would call a Freethinker. While he re-
flected a great deal upon religious subjects he com-
238 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
municated his thoughts to a very few. He had little
faith in the popular religion of the times. He had a
broad conception of the goodness and power of an
overruling Providence, and said to me one day that
he felt sure the Author of our being, whether called
God or Nature, it mattered little which, would deal
very mercifully with poor erring humanity in the
other, and he hoped better, world. He was as free
as possible from all sectarian thought, feeling, or
sentiment. No man was more tolerant of the opin-
ions and feelings of others in the direction of relig-
ious sentiment or had less faith in religious dogmas '
(Reminiscences of Lincoln, pp. 590, 591).
In conclusion, Mr. Alley says :
" While Mr. Lincoln was perfectly honest and up-
right and led a blameless life, he was in no sense
what might be considered a religious man " (Ibid).
HON. HUGH McCULLOCH.
Hon. Hugh McCulloch, a member of Lincoln's
Cabinet, his last Secretary of the Treasury, writes :
" Grave and sedate in manner, he was full of kind
and gentle emotion. He was fond of poetry.
Shakspere was his delight. Few men could read
with equal expression the plays of the great dra-
matist. The theater had great attractions for him,
but it was comedy, not tragedy, he went to hear.
He had great enjoyment of the plays that made him
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 239
laugh, no matter how absurd and grotesque, and he
gave expression to his enjoyment by hearty and
noisy applause. He was a man of strong religious
convictions, but he cared nothing for the dogmas of
the churches and had little respect for their creeds '
(Keminiscences of Lincoln, pp. 412, 413).
DO UN PI ATT.
The distinguished lawyer, soldier and journalist,
Donn Piatt, who knew Lincoln in Illinois and who
met him often in Washington, writes :
" I soon discovered that this strange and strangely
gifted man, while not at all cynical, was a skeptic.
His view of human nature was low, but good-
natured. I could not call it suspicious, but he be-
lieved only what he saw " (Reminiscences of Lincoln,
Those who are disposed to believe that Lincoln's
Christian biographers have observed an inflexible
adherence to truth in their statements concerning
his religious belief would do well to ponder the
following words of Mr. Piatt :
" History is, after all, the crystallization of popular
beliefs. As a pleasant fiction is more acceptable
than a naked fact, and as the historian shapes his
wares, like any other dealer, to suit his customers,
one can readily see that our chronicles are only a
duller sort of fiction than the popular novels so
240 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
eagerly read ; not that they are true, but that they
deal in what we long to have the truth. Popular
beliefs, in time, come to be superstitions, and create
gods and devils. Thus Washington is deified into
an impossible man, and Aaron Burr has passed into
a like impossible monster. Through the same proc-
ess Abraham Lincoln, one of our truly great, has
almost gone from human knowledge " (Ibid, p.
HON. SCHUYLER COLFAX.
Previous to the war no class of persons were
louder in their denunciation of Abolitionism than
the clergy of the North. When at last it became
evident that the institution of slavery was doomed,
in their eagerness to be found on the popular side,
they were equally loud in their demands for its
immediate extirpation. In September, 1862, a depu-
tation of Chicago clergymen waited upon the Presi-
dent for the purpose of urging him to proclaim the
freedom of the slave. Notwithstanding he had
matured his plans and was ready to issue his
Proclamation, he gave them no intimation of his in-
tention. In connection with their visit, Colfax
relates the following :
" One of these ministers felt it his duty to make a
more searching appeal to the President's conscience.
Just as they were retiring, he turned, and said to
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 241
Mr. Lincoln, * What you have said to us, Mr. Presi-
dent, compels me to say to you in reply, that it is a
message to you from our Divine Master, through me,
commanding you, sir, to open the doors of bondage
that the slave may go free ! ' Mr. Lincoln replied,
instantly, ' That may be, sir, for I have studied this
question, by night and by day, for weeks arid for
months, but if it is, as you say, a message from your
Divine Master, is it not odd that the only channel
he could send it by was that roundabout route by
that awfully wicked city of Chicago?' (Reminis-
cences of Lincoln, pp. 334, 335).
In a lecture delivered in Brooklyn, N. Y., in 1886,
Mr. Colfax stated that Lincoln was not a Christian,
in the evangelical sense. To a gentleman who
visited him at his home in South Bend, Ind., he
declared that Lincoln was not a believer in orthodox
Christianity. Again at Atchison, Kan., he informed
Mr. Perkins that Lincoln had never been converted
to Christianity, as claimed.
HON. WILLIAM D. KELLEY.
William D. Kelley, for thirty years a member of
Congress from Pennsylvania, relates an incident
similar to the one related by Mr. Colfax. A
" Quaker preacher ' called at the White House to
urge the President to proclaim at once the freedom
ABRAHAM LINCOLN !
of the slave. To illustrate her argument and empha-
size her plea, she cited the history of Deborah.
" Having elaborated this Biblical example," says
Mr. Kelley, " the speaker assumed that the President
was, as Deborah had been, the appointed minister of
the Lord, and proceeded to tell him that it was his
duty to follow the example of Deborah, and forth-
with abolish slavery, and establish freedom through-
out the land, as the Lord had appointed him to do.
" ' Has the Friend finished ?' said the President, as
she ceased to speak. Having received an affirmative
answer, he said : ' I have neither time nor disposi-
tion to enter into discussion with the Friend, and
end this occasion by suggesting for her consideration
the question whether, if it be true that the Lord has
appointed me to do the work she has indicated, it is
not probable that he would have communicated
knowledge of the fact to me as well as to her''
(Reminiscences of Lincoln, pp. 284, 285).
HON. GEORGE S. BOUTWELL.
A great many pious stories have been circulated
in regard to the Emancipation Proclamation. We
are told that he made a " solemn vow to God " that
if Lee was defeated at Antietam he would issue the
Preliminary Proclamation. And yet this document
contains no recognition of God. He even com-
pleted the draft of it on what Christians are pleased
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
to regard as God's holy day. Mr. Boutwell states
that Lincoln once related to him the circumstances
attending the promulgation of the instrument. He
quotes the following as Lincoln's words :
" The truth is just this : When Lee came over
the river, I made a resolution that if McClellan drove
him back I would send the Proclamation after him.
The battle of Antietam was fought Wednesday, and
until Saturday I could not find out whether we had
gained a victory or lost a battle. It was then too
late to issue the Proclamation that day, and the fact
is I fixed it up a little Sunday, and Monday I let them
have it" (Reminiscences of Lincoln, p. 126).
E. H. WOOD.
Mr. E. H. Wood, one of Lincoln's old Springfield
neighbors, who visited him at Washington during
the war, made the following statement to Mr. Hern-
don, in October, 1881 :
" I came from Auburn, N. Y. knew Seward
well knew Lincoln very well lived for three years
just across the alley from his residence. I had many
conversations with him on politics and religion as
late as 1859 and '60. He was a broad religionist a
Liberal. Lincoln told me Franklin's story. . Frank-
lin and a particular friend made an agreement that
the first one died he would come back and tell
things went. Well, Franklin's friend died, but
never came back. * It is a doubtful question/ said
Lincoln, * whether we get anywhere to get back.*
Lincoln said, * There is no hell.' He did not say
much about heaven. I met him in Washington and
saw no change in him." .
I have given the testimony of two of Lincoln's
nearest neighbors in Springfield, Isaac Hawley and
E. H. Wood. Mr. Hawley believes that Lincoln was
a Christian ; Mr. Wood knows that he was not. Mr.
Hawley never heard Lincoln utter a word to
support his belief; Mr. Wood obtained his knowledge
from Lincoln himself. Mr. Hawley 's belief is of
little value compared with Mr. Wood's knowledge.
Mr. Hawley never heard Lincoln defend Christianity
and probably never heard him oppose it. Lincoln
knew that Mr. Hawley was a Christian that he had
no sympathy with his Freethought views. He did
not desire to offend or antagonize him, and hence
he refrained from introducing a subject that he knew
was distasteful to him. Mr. Wood, on the other
hand, was a man of broad and Liberal ideas, aiul
Lincoln did not hesitate to express to him his views
J. J. THOMPSON, M.D.
Dr. J. J. Thompson, an old resident of Illinois,
now in Colorado, in a letter, dated March 18, 1888,
writes as follows :
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 245
" I knew Abraham Lincoln from my boyhood up
to the time of his death. I was in his law office
many times and met him several times in Washing-
ton. He was a Liberal, outspoken, and seemed to
feel proud of it."
" This great and good man," concludes Dr.
Thompson, " claimed Humanity as his religion."
REV. JAMES SHRIGLEY.
Rev. Jas. Shrigley, of Philadelphia, who was ac-
quainted with President Lincoln in Washington, and
who received a hospital chaplaincy from him, says :
" President Lincoln was also remarkably tolerant.
He was the friend of all, and never, to my knowl-
edge, gave the influence of his great name to
encourage sectarianism in any of its names and
forms " (Lincoln Memorial Album, p. 335).
HON. JOHN COVODE.
In connection with Mr. Shrigley's appointment,
the following anecdote is related. Mr. Shrigley was
not orthodox, and w r hen it became known that his
name had been sent to the Senate, a Committee of
"Young Christians" waited upon the President for
the purpose of inducing him to withdraw the nomi-
nation. Hon. John Covode, of Pennsylvania, was
present during the interview and gave ft to the
press. It is as follows :
ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
" ' We have called, Mr. President, to confer with
you in regard to the appointment of Mr. Shrigley,
of Philadelphia, as hospital chaplain.'
" The President responded : ' Oh, yes, gentlemen ;
I have sent his name to the Senate, and he will nc
doubt be confirmed at an early day.'
" One of the young men replied : ' We have not
come to ask for the appointment, but to solicit you-
to withdraw the nomination.'
" ' Ah,' said Lincoln, ' that alters the case ; but on
what ground do you ask the nomination with-
" The answer was, ' Mr. Shrigley is not sound in
his theological opinions.'
" The President inquired : ' On what question is
the gentleman unsound?'
" Response : ' He does not believe in endless
punishment ; not only so, sir, but he believes that
even the rebels themselves will finally be saved.'
" ' Is that so ?' inquired the President.
" The members of the committee both responded,
" ' Well, gentlemen, if that be so, and there is any
way under heaven whereby the rebels can be saved,
then, for God's sake and their sakes, let the man be
appointed ' " (L. M. A., pp. 336, 337).
And he was appointed.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 247
JAMES E. MURDOCH.
It is claimed that few public men have made
greater use of the Bible than Lincoln. This is true.
He was continually quoting Scripture or alluding to
Scriptural scenes and stories, sometimes to illustrate
or adorn a serious speech, but more frequently to
point or emphasize a joke. The venerable actor and
elocutionist, James E. Murdoch, who had met Lin-
coln, both in Springfield and Washington, relates an
anecdote of him while at Washington which serves
to illustrate this propensity :
" One day a detachment of troops was marching
along the avenue singing the soul-stirring strain of
' John Brown.' They were walled in on either side
by throngs of citizens and strangers, whose voices
mingled in the roll of the mighty war-song. In the
midst of this exciting scene, a man had clambered
into a small tree, on the sidewalk, where he clung,
unmindful of the jeers of the passing crowd, called
forth by the strange antics he was unconsciously ex-
hibiting in his efforts to overcome the swaying
motion of the slight stem which bent beneath his
weight. Mr. Lincoln's attention was attracted for a
moment, and he paused in the serious conversation
in which he was deeply interested and in an ab-
stracted manner, yet with a droll cast of the eye, and
a nod of the head in the direction of the man, he re-
ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
peated, in his dry and peculiar utterance, the fol-
lowing old-fashioned couplet :
1 And Zaccheous lie did climb a tree,
His Lord and Master tor to see.' "
(L. M. A., pp. 349, 350).
Mr. Murdoch states that in connection with this
incident Lincoln was charged " with turning sacred
subjects into ridicule." He apologizes for, and
attempts to palliate this levity, and affects to believe
that Lincoln was a Christian. But almost daily
Lincoln indulged in jokes at the expense of the Bible
and Christianity, many of them ten-fold more sacri-
legious in their character than this trifling incident re-
lated by Mr. Murdoch. If the scrupulously pious
considered this simple jest, uttered in the midst of a
mixed crowd, irreverent, what would have been
their horror could they have listened to some of his
remarks made when alone with a skeptical boon
companion? With Christians and with strangers
he was generally guarded in his speech, lest he
should give offense ; but with his unbelieving friends,
up to the end of his career, his keenest shafts of
wit were not infrequently aimed at the religion of
his day. This shows that the popular faith had no
more sacredness for Lincoln, the President, in
Washington, than it had for Lincoln, the farmer's
boy, who mocked and mimicked it in Indiana, or
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 249
Lincoln, the lawyer, who scoffed at it and argued
against it in Illinois.
HON. MAUNSELL B. FIELD.
Mr. Field, who had met nearly all the noted
characters of his day, both of Europe and America,
in his " Memories of Many Men," has this signifi-
cant sentence respecting Lincoln :
" Mr. Lincoln was entirely deficient in what the
phrenologists call reverence [veneration]."
This made it easy for him to emancipate himself
from the slavery of priestcraft and become and
remain a Freethinker. Professor Beall, one of the
ablest of living phrenological writers, says :
. " No man can ' enjoy religion,' as the Methodists
express it, unless he has well developed veneration
and wonder " (The Brain and the Bible, p. 109).
"All those who rebel against any form of govern-
ment which in childhood they were taught to
revere, must of necessity do so in opposition to the
faculty of veneration. Thus it is obvious that the
less one possesses of the conservative restraining
faculties, the more easily he becomes a rebel or an
Infidel to that which his reason condemns. On the
other hand, the profoundly conscientious and rever-
ential man, who sincerely regards unbelief as a sin,
of course instinctively antagonizes every skeptical
thought, and is thus likely to remain a slave to the
250 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
religion learned at his mother's knee' (Ibid, p.
Mr. Field also relates the following anecdote of
" I was once in Mr. Lincoln's company when a
sectarian controversy arose. He himself looked
very grave, and made no observation until all the
others had finished what they had to say. Then
with a twinkle of the eye he remarked that he pre-
ferred the Episcopalians to every other sect, because
they are equally indifferent to a man's religion and
HARRIET BEECH ER STOWE.
The noted author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin " had
several interviews with the President. She wrote
an article on him which has been cited in proof of
his " deeply religious nature." But if her words
prove anything, they prove that he was not an
evangelical Christian. They are as follows :
" But Almighty God has granted to him that clear-
ness of vision which he gives to the true-hearted, and
enabled him to set his honest foot in that promised
Iind of freedom which is to be the patrimony of all
anen, black and white ; and from henceforth nations
shall rise up and call him blessed. We believe he has
never made any religious profession, but we see evi-
dence that in passing through this dreadful national
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 251
crisis, he has been forced by the very anguish of the
struggle to look upward, where any rational creature
must look for support. No man in this agony has
suffered more and deeper, albeit with a dry, weary,
patient pain, that seemed to some like insensibility.
' Whichever way it ends,' he said to the writer, 1 1
* ' *
have the impression that /shan't last long after it's
over 5 ' (Every-Day Life of Lincoln, pp. 575, 576).
Mrs. Stowe was herself an orthodox Christian
communicant, but her store of good sense was too
great to allow her to inflict her religious notions
upon the unbelieving President, and, as a conse-
quence, she did not see him rush out of the room
with a Bible under his arm to I was going to say
pray God to deliver him from an intolerable
That the mighty burden which pressed upon Lin-
coln made him a sadder and more serious man at
Washington than he had been before is true. Chris-
tians are always mistaking sadness for penitence and
seriousness for piety, and so they claim that he ex-
perienced a change of heart.
HON. JOHN P. USHER.
Christians and Tbeists are wont to speak of Lin-
coln's constant and firm reliance upon God. But it
is a little remarkable that in the preparation of his
greatest work he did not rely upon God. In the
252 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
supreme moments of his life he forgot God. Dr.
Barrows says :
" When he wrote his immortal Proclamation, he
invoked upon it . . . ' the gracious favor of Al-
When he wrote his immortal Proclamation he had
no thought of God. Judge Usher, a member of his
Cabinet, tells us how God came to be invoked :
" In the preparation of the final Proclamation of
Emancipation, of January 1, 1863, Mr. Lincoln mani-
fested great solicitude. He had his original draft
printed and furnished each member of his Cabinet
with a copy, with the request that each should ex-
amine, criticise, and suggest any amendments that
occurred to them. At the next meeting of the Cabi-
net Mr. Chase said : ' This paper is of the utinost
importance greater than any state paper ever made
by this Government. A paper of so much impor-
tance, and involving the liberties of so many people,
ought, I think, to make some reference to Deity. I
do not observe anything of the kind in it. J Mr.
Lincoln said : ' No ; I overlooked it. Some refer-
ence to Deity must be inserted. Mr. Chase, won't
you make a draft of what you tliink ought to be in-
serted ?' Mr. Chase promised to do so, and at the
next meeting presented the following : * And upon
this Act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice
warranted by the Constitution upon military neces-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 253
sity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind
and the gracious favor of Almighty God' (Remi-
niscences of Lincoln, pp. 91, 92),
HON. SALMON P. CHASE.
In the New York Tribune of Feb. 22d, 1893,
appeared an article on "How the Emancipation
Proclamation was made " written bv Mrs. Janet
Chase Hoyt, daughter of Salmon P. Chase. In this
article Mrs. Hoyt gives the following extract from a
letter written to her by her father in 1867 :
" Looking over old papers, I found many of my
memoranda, etc., of the war, and among them my
draft of a proclamation of emancipation sub-
mitted to Mr. Lincoln the day before his own was
issued. He asked all of us for suggestions in
regard to its form and I submitted mine in writing,
and among other sentences the close as it now
stands, which he adopted from my draft with a modi-
fication. It may be interesting to you to see pre-
cisely what I said, and I copy it. You must remem-
ber that in the original draft there was no reference
whatever to Divine or human sanction of the act.
What I said was this at the conclusion of my letter :
' Finally, I respectfully suggest that on an occasion
of such interest there can be no imputation of affec-
tation against a solemn recognition of responsibility
before men and before God, and that some such
ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
close as this will be proper : " And upon this act,
sincerely believed to be an act of justice warranted
by the Constitution (and of duty demanded by the
circumstances (of the country), I invoke the con-
siderate judgment of mankind and the gracious
favor of Almighty God.' Mr. Lincoln adopted this
close, substituting only for the words inclosed in
parentheses these words : ' upon military necessity,'
which I think was not an improvement.'
During his Presidency the clergy petitioned him
to recommend in his message to Congress an amend-
ment to the Constitution recognizing the existence
of God. In preparing his message it seems that he
inserted the request. Referring to this, Mr. Defrees,
Superintendent of Public Printing during Lincoln's
administration, says :
" When I assisted him in reading the proof he
struck it out, remarking that he had not made up
his mind as to its propriety' (Westminster Review,
HON. WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
In his" Travels Around the World," Seward records
one of Lincoln's sarcastic hits at the doctrine of end-
less punishment. Speaking of England's jealousy of
the United States in certain matters, Seward says :
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 255
" That hesitation and refusal recall President
Lincoln's story of the intrusion of the Universalists
into the town of Springfield. The several orthodox
churches agreed that their pastors should preach
down the heresy. One of them began his discourse
with these emphatic words : * My Brethren, there is
a dangerous doctrine creeping in among us. There
are those who are teaching that all men will be
saved; but my dear brethren, we hope for better
things ' " (Travels Around the World, p. 513).
JUDGE AARON GOODRICH.
Judge Goodrich, of Minnesota, Lincoln's minister
to Belgium, who was one of the most accomplished
scholars in the West, and an author of note, and who
was on terms of close intimacy with Lincoln, both
before and after he became President, says :
"He [Lincoln] believed in a God, i.e., Nature; but
he did not believe in the Christ, nor did he ever
affiliate with any church."
Abraham Lincoln believed in a Supreme Being,
but he did not believe in the God of Christians.
The God of Christians was to him the most hideous
monster that the imagination of man had ever con-
ceived. There were two doctrines taught in connec-
tion with this deity which he especially abhorred
the doctrine of endless punishment, and the doctrine
256 . ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
of vicarious atonement. That the innocent should
suffer for .the guilty that God should permit his
sinless son to be put to a cruel death to atone for the
sins of wicked men was to him an act of the most
infamous injustice. His whole nature rebelled
against the idea. Frederick Douglas narrates an in-
cident which, while it has no direct reference to this
theological doctrine, yet tends to disclose his abhor-
rence of the idea. Mr. Douglas was engaged in re-
cruiting colored troops and visited the President for
the purpose of securing from him a pledge that col-
ored soldiers would be allowed the same privileges
accorded white soldiers. As the Confederate Gov-
ernment had declared that they would be treated as
insurgents, he also urged upon him the necessity of
retaliating, if colored prisoners were put to death.
But to the latter proposition Lincoln would not
listen. Mr. Douglas says :
" I shall never forget the benignant expression of
his face, the tearful look of his eye and the quiver
of his voice, when he deprecated a resort to retalia-
tory measures. He said he could not take men out
and kill them in cold blood for what was done by
others. If het could get hold of the persons who
were guilty of killing the colored prisoners in cold
blood, the case would be different, but he could not
kittthe innocent for the guilty " (Reminiscences of Lin-
coln, pp. 188, 189).
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 257
HICOUY AND HATS "LIFE OF LINCOLN."
Of the numerous biographies of Lincoln that have
been published, the authors of three, above all
others, were specially qualified and possessed the
necessary materials for a reliable biography of him
Herndon, Lamon, and Nicolay and Hay.
As Colonel Lamon's " Life " covers but a part of
Lincoln's career, and as Mr. Herndon's " Life " deals
more with his private life than with his public his-
tory, the biography of Lincoln that is likely to be
accepted as the standard authority, is the work writ-
ten by his private secretaries, Col. John G. Nicolay
and Col. John Hay, which originally appeared in the
Century Magazine. In the chapter on " Lincoln and
the Churches," the religious phase of Lincoln's
character is presented. In dealing with this ques-
tion the authors have carefully avoided the rock upon
which Lamon's " Life ' was wrecked, and at the
same time have refrained from repeating the misrep-
resentations of Holland and Arnold. They do not
offend the church by openly declaring that Lincoln
was an Infidel ; neither do they outrage truth by
asserting that he was a Christian. They affirm that
during the latter years of his life he recognized a
"superior power," but they do not intimate that he
recognized Jesus Christ as this power, or any part
of it, nor that he accepted the Bible as a special
revelation of this power. In the following passage
258 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
they impliedly deny both his alleged Atheism and
his alleged orthodoxy :
" We have no purpose of attempting to formulate
his creed ; we question if he himself ever did so.
There have been swift witnesses who, judging from
expressions uttered in his callow youth, have called
him an Atheist, and others who, with the most laud-
able intentions, have remembered improbable con-
versations which they bring forward to prove at
once his orthodoxy and their own intimacy with
As it is not claimed that Lincoln was an Atheist,
especially during the last years of his life, the above
can very properly be brought forward in support of
the negative of this question. In the last clause it
is intended by the authors to administer a sarcastic
rebuke to such witnesses as Brooks, Willets and
Vinton, as well as deny the truthfulness of their
In regard to Lincoln's youth, the following from
Nicolay and Hay's work corroborates Lamon's
statements and refutes those of Holland:
" We are making no claim of early saintship for
him. He Tvas merely a good boy, with sufficient
wickedness to prove his humanity. ... It is
also reported that he sometimes impeded the celerity
of harvest operations by making burlesque speeches,
or worse than that, comic sermons, from the top of
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 259
some tempting stump, to the delight of the hired
hands and the exasperation of the farmer."
HOH. WARREN CHASE.
In 1888, I received a brief letter from Warren
Chase pertaining to Lincoln's religious belief. Mr.
Chase was acquainted with Lincoln in Washington.
His letter has been mislaid, but I recall the principal
points in it, which are as follows : 1. Lincoln was
not a believer in Christianity ; 2. He was much in-
terested in the phenomena of Spiritualism.
HON. A. /. GROVER.
A. J. Grover, a life-long reformer, an old-time
Abolitionist, an able advocate of human liberty, and
a personal friend and admirer of Lincoln, in a letter
written April 13, 1888, sends me the following as his
" Mr. Lincoln was not a religious man in the
church sense. He was an Agnostic. He did not be-
lieve in the Bible as the infallible word of God. He
believed that Nature is God's word, given to all men
in a universal language which is equally accessible
to all, if all are equally intelligent. That this great
lesson, God's word in his works, is infinite, and that
men have only learned a very little of it, and have
yet the most to learn. That the religions of all ages
and peoples are only very feeble and imperfect
260 ABRAHAM UNCOIL!
attempts to solve the great problems involved in
nature and her laws. Mr. Lincoln heartily disliked
the narrow and silly pretensions of the church and
priesthood who now falsely claim him, as they do
Washington, Franklin and others.
"I knew Mr. Lincoln from the Douglas cam-
paign in Illinois in 1858 until his death, and I never
heard him on any occasion use a single pious ex-
pression in the sense of the church not a word that
indicated that he believed in the church theology.
But I have heard him use many expressions that
indicated that he did not know much, or pretend to
know much, and had no settled convictions concern-
ing the great questions that theology deals so
flippantly with, and pretends to know all about.
And I know to my own knowledge that the claim
the church now sets up that he was a Christian is
false as false as it is in regard to Washington."
Writing to me again under date of Jan. 12, 1889,
Mr. Grover says :
" I knew Mr. Lincoln in Illinois and in Washington.
I was in the War office, for a time, in a department
which had charge of the President's books, so-called.
I met him in passing between the White House and
the buildings then occupied by the War Department,
almost every day. I often had to go to Mr. Stan-
ton's office, and have often seen Mr. Lincoln there.
I frequently had to go to the White House to see
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 261
him. It was known to all of his acquaintances that
he was a Liberal or Rationalist."
JUDGE JAMES M. NELSON.
The last, and in some respects the most important,
of our Washington witnesses is Judge James M.
Nelson. Judge Nelson for many years has been a
resident of New York, but he formerly lived in Ken-
tucky and Illinois, Lincoln's native and adopted
states. He is a son of Thomas Pope Nelson, a dis-
tinguished member of Congress from Kentucky, and
the first United States Minister to Turkey. His
great grandfather was Thomas Nelson, Jr., a signer
of the Declaration of Independence from Virginia.
He was long and intimately acquainted with Lin-
coln both in Illinois and Washington. About the
close of 1886, or early in 1887, Judge Nelson pub-
lished his "Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln"
in the Louisville, Ky., Times. In reference to Lin-
coln's religious opinions he says :
" In religion, Mr. Lincoln was about of the same
belief as Bob Ingersoll, and there is no account of
his ever having changed. He went to church a few
times with his family while he was President, but so
far as I have been able to find out he remained an
" Mr. Lincoln in his younger days wrote a book,"
says Judge Nelson, "in which he endeavored to
262 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
prove the fallacy of the plan of salvation and the
divinitv of Christ."
I have yet another passage from Judge Nelson's
" Reminiscences" to present, a passage which, more
than anything else in this volume, perhaps, is calcu-
lated to provoke the wrath of Christian claimants.
To lend an air of plausibility to their claims these
claimants are continually citing expressions of a
seemingly semi-pious character occasionally to be
met with in his speeches and state papers. These
expressions, in a measure accounted for by Mr.
Herndon, Colonel Lamon, and others, are still
further explained by a revelation from his own lips.
Judge Nelson says :
"I asked him once about his fervent Thanksgiving
Message and twitted him with being an unbeliever
in what was published. ' Oh/ said he, 'that is
some of Seward's nonsense, and it pleases the
fools. 1 "
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 263
OTHER TESTIMONY AND OPINIONS.-
New York World Boston Globe Chicago Herald Manford's
Magazine Herald and Review Chambers's Encyclopedia
Encyclopedia Britannica People's Library of Information The
World's Sages E very-Day Life of Lincoln Hon. Jesse W. Weik
Chas. W. French Cyrus 0. Poole A Citizen of Springfield Henry
Walker Wm. Bissett Frederick Heath Rev. Edward Eggleston
Rev. Robert Collyer Allen Thorndike Rice Robert C. Adams
Theodore Stanton Geo. M. McCrie Gen. M. M. Trumbull Rev.
David Swing, D.D. Rev. J. Lloyd Jones Rev. John W. Chadwick.
THE matter selected for this chapter is of a miscel-
laneous nature, consisting of the statements of those
who, for the most part, are not known to have been
personally acquainted with Lincoln. It embraces
the opinions of journalists, encyclopedists, biogra-
phers, and others. If their words cannot be ac-
cepted as the testimony of competent witnesses, they
may at least be regarded as the verdict of honest
NEW YORK WORLD.
In the New York World, fifteen years ago, ap-
peared the following :
" While it may fairly be said that Mr. Lincoln en-
tertained many Christian sentiments, it cannot be
264 ABRAHAM LINCOLN*.
said that he was himself a Christian in faith or
practice. He was no disciple of Jesus of Nazareth.
He did not believe in his divinity and was not a
member of his church.
" He was a* first a writing Infidel of the school of
Paine and Volney, and afterward a talking Infidel of
the school of Parker and Channing."
Alluding to the friendly attitude he assumed
toward the church and Christianity during the war,
this article concludes :
"If the churches had grown cold if the Chris-
tians had taken a stand aloof that instant the
Union would have perished. Mr. Lincoln regulated
his religious manifestations accordingly. He de-
clared frequently that he would do anything to save
the Union, and among the many things he did was the
partial concealment of his individual religious opin-
ions. Is this a blot upon his fame ? Or shall we
all agree that it was a conscientious and patriotic
As evidence of Lincoln's piety, we are referred to
a picture where Lincoln, with his son Tad, is sup-
posed to be reverentially poring over the pages of
the Bible. The history of this picture, however, has
often been explained, and its apparently religious
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 265
character shown to be quite secular. The Boston
Globe, in a recent issue, says :
" The pretty little story about the picture of
President Lincoln and his son Tad reading the Bible
is now corrected for the one-hundredth time. The
Bible was Photographer Brady's picture album,
which the President was examining with his son
while some ladies stood by. The artist begged the
President to remain quiet and the picture was taken.
The truth is better than fiction, even if its recital
conflicts with a pleasing theory."
During February, 1892, the Chicago Herald pub-
lished an editorial on Lincoln's religion. Being one
of the latest contributions to this subject, and ap-
pearing in one of the principal journals of Lincoln's
own state, it is of especial importance. It is a can-
did statement of what nearly every journalist of Illi-
nois knows or believes to be the facts. From it I
quote as follows :
" He was without faith in the Bible or its teach-
ings. On this point the testimony is so over-
whelming that there is no basis for doubt. In his
early life Lincoln exhibited a powerful tendency to
aggressive Infidelity. But when he grew to be a
politician he became secretive and non-committal in
his religious belief. He was shrewd enough to
266 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
realize the necessity of reticence with the convic-
tions he possessed if he hoped to succeed in
" It is matter of history that in 1834, at New
Salem, 111., Lincoln read and circulated Volney's
k Kuins ' and Paine's ' Age of Reason,' giving to both
books the sincere recommendation of his unqualified
approval. About that time or a little later he wrote
an extensive argument against Christianity, intend-
ing to publish it. In this argument he contended that
the Bible was not inspired and that Jesus Christ was
not the son of God. He read this compilation of his
views to numerous friends, and on one occasion
when so engaged his friend and employer, Samuel
Hill, snatched the manuscript from the author's
hands and threw it into the stove, where it was
quickly consumed. A Springfield friend said of him
in 1838. * Lincoln was enthusiastic in his Infidelitv.'
John T. Stuart, who was his first law partner, de-
clares : * Lincoln was an avowed and open Infidel.
He went further against Christian belief than any
man I ever heard. He always denied that Jesus
was the Christ of God.' David Davis stated that
* Lincoln had absolutely no faith in the Christian
sense of the term.'
" These authorities ought to be conclusive, but
there is further testimony. This latter is important
as explanatory of Lincoln's frequent allusions in his
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 267
Presidential messages arid proclamations to the Su-
preme Being. To the simplicity of his nature there
was added a poetic temperament. He was fond of
effective imagery, and his references to the Deity are
due to the instinct of the poet. After his death Mrs.
Lincoln said : ' Mr. Lincoln had no faith and no
hope in the usu *l acceptation of those words. He
never joined a church.' She denominates what has
been mistaken for his expressions of religious senti-
ment as ' a kind of poetry in his nature,' adding * he
was never a Christian.' Herndon, who was his latest
law partner and biographer, is even more explicit.
He says : ' No man had a stronger or firmer faith
in Providence God than Mr. Lincoln, but the
continued use by him late in life of the word God
must not be interpreted to mean that he believed in
a personal God. In 1854 he asked me to erase the
word ' God ' from a speech which I had written and
read to him for criticism, because my language indi-
cated a personal God, whereas he insisted no such
personality ever existed.'
" So it must be accepted as final by every reason-
able mind that in religion Mr. Lincoln was a skeptic.
But above all things he was not a hypocrite or pre-
tender. He was a plain man, rugged and earnest,
and he pretended to be nothing more. He believed
in humanity, and he was incapable of Phariseeism.
He had great respect for the feelings and convictions
268 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
of others, but he was not a sniveler. He was honest
and he was sincere, and taking him simply for what
he was, we are not likely soon to see his like
There are two Christian publications that have
had the fairness to admit the truth respecting Lin-
coln's belief. Manford's Magazine, a religious peri-
odical published in Chicago, in its issue for
January, 1869, contained the following:
" That Mr. Lincoln was a believer in the Christian
religion, as understood by the so-called orthodox
sects of the day, I am compelled most emphatically
to deny ; that is, if I put faith in the statements of
his most intimate friends in this city [Springfield].
All of them with whom I have conversed on this
subject, agree in indorsing the statements of Mr.
Herndon. Indeed, many of them unreservedly call
him an Infidel."
" The evidence on this subject is sufficient, the
writer says, to place the name of Lincoln by the
side of Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and [Ethan]
Allen, of Revolutionary notoriety, as Rationalists ;
besides being in company with D'Alembert, the
great mathematician, Diderot, the geometrician, poet,
and metaphysician ; also with Voltaire, Hume, Gib-
bon, and Darwin."
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 269
Referring to the Infidel book, written by Lincoln,
the writer says :
" This work was subsequently thrown in Mr. Lin-
coln's face while he was stumping this district for
Congress against the celebrated Methodist preacher,
Rev. Peter Cartwright. But Mr. Lincoln never
publicly or privately denied its authorship, or the
sentiments expressed therein. Nor was he known
to change his religious views any, to the latest
period of his life."
The article concludes with these truthful words :
"Mr. Lincoln was too good a man to be a
Pharisee ; too great a man to be a sectarian ; and
too charitable a man to be a bigot."
HERALD AND REVIEW.
This work, in an abridged form, originally ap-
peared in the Truth Seeker in 1889 and 1890. After
its appearance, the Adventist Herald and Review,
one of the fairest and most ably conducted religious
journals in this country, said :
" The Truth Seeker has just concluded the publi-
cation of a series of fifteen contributed articles de-
signed to prove that Abraham Lincoln, instead of
being a Christian, as has been most strongly
claimed by some, was a Freethinker. The testimony
seems conclusive. . . . The majority of the
great men of the world have always rejected Christ,
270 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
and, according to the Scriptures, they always will;
and the efforts of Christians to make it appear that
certain great men who never professed Christianity
were in reality Christians, is simply saying that
Christianity cannot stand on its merits, but must
have the support of great names to entitle it to
Alden's American Edition of "Chambers's Encyclo-
pedia," one of the most popular as well as one of
the most reliable of encyclopedias, says :
" He [Lincoln] was never a member of a church ;
he is believed to have had philosophical doubts of
the divinity of Christ, and of the inspiration of the
Scriptures, as these are commonly stated in the
system of doctrines called evangelical. In early life
he read Volney and Paine, and wrote an essay in
which he agreed with their conclusions. Of modern
thinkers he was thought to agree nearest with
Theodore Parker " (Art. Lincoln, Abraham).
By whom the article on Lincoln in " Chambers's
Encyclopedia " was written, whether by one of Liu-
coin's personal friends, or by a stranger, I know
not. The article in the " Britannica " was written
by his private secretary, Colonel Nicolay. In this
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 271
article his religion is briefly summed up in the
following words :
" His [Lincoln's] nature was deeply religious, but
he belonged to no denomination ; he had faith in
the eternal justice and boundless mercy of Provi-
dence ; and made the Golden Rule of Christ his
practical creed" (Am. Ed., vol. xiv, p. 669).
This statement at first glance presents a Christian
appearance, and the reader is liable to infer that the
writer aims to state that Lincoln was a Christian.
But he does not. He aims to state in the least
offensive manner possible that he was not that he
was simply a Deist. A person may have a " deeply
religious ' nature, and not be a Christian. He may
have " faith in the eternal justice and boundless
mercy of Providence," and yet have no faith what-
ever in Christianity. He may make " the Golden
Rule of Christ [or Confucius] his practical creed,"
and at the same time wholly reject the dogma of
Christ's divinity. The above statement is substan-
tially true as applied to Lincoln, and it would be
equally true if applied to that prince of Infidels,
Thomas Paine. His nature was deeply religious ; he
had faith in the justice and mercy of Providence ; and
he, too, made the Golden Rule his practical creed.
PEOPLE'S LIBRARY OF INFORMATION.
Mrs. Lincoln was nominally a Presbyterian, and
272 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
frequently, though not regularly, attended the Rev.
Dr. Gurley's church in Washington. Lincoln usually
accompanied her, not because he derived any pleas-
ure or benefit from the services, but because he be-
lieved it to be a duty he owed to his wife who, in
turn, generally accompanied him when he went to
his church, the theater. " The People's Library of
Information" contains the following relative to his
church attendance :
" Lincoln attended service once a day. He seemed
always to be in agony while in church. . . . His
pastor, Dr. Gurley, had the 'gift of continuance,'
and the President writhed and squirmed and gave
unmistakable evidence of the torture he endured."
THE WORLD'S SAGES.
In " The World's Sages," Mr. Bennett writes as
follows concerning Lincoln's belief :
" Upon the subject of religious belief there is some
diversity of claims. All his friends and acquaint-
ances readily admit that in early manhood and
middle age he was an unbeliever, or a Deist. In
fact, he wrote a book or pamphlet vindicating this
view. His most intimate friends that knew him
best, claim that his opinions underwent no change
in this respect ; while a certain number of Christians
have, since his death, undertaken to make out that
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? ^73
he had become a convert to Christianity ' (World's
Sages, p. 773).
" When the contradictory character of the evidence
is taken into consideration, together with the fact
that his nearest and most intimate friends would be
most likely the ones to know of Mr. Lincoln's
change, had any such taken place, the incredibility
of the asserted change is easily appreciated " (Ibid,
THE EVERY-DAY LIFE OF LINCOLN.
In the Emancipation Proclamation appears the
following paragraph, which contains the only allusion
to Deity to be found in this immortal document :
" And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an
act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon
military necessity, I invoke the considerate judg-
ment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty
The appearance of the above paragraph in the
Proclamation is thus accounted for in Francis F.
Brown's " Every-Day Life of Lincoln," and agrees
with Judge Usher's and Chief Justice Chase's ac-
count of it :
"It is stated that Mr. Lincoln gave the most
earnest study to the composition of the Emancipa-
tion Proclamation. He realized, as he afterward
said, that the Proclamation was the central act of
274 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
his administration, and the great event of the Nine-
teenth Century. When the document was completed,
a printed copy of it was placed in the hands of each
member of the Cabinet, and criticisms and sugges-
tions were invited. Mr. Chase remarked : ' This
paper is of the utmost importance, greater than any
state paper ever made by this Government. A
paper of so much importance, and involving the
liberties of so many people, ought, I think, to make
some reference to Deity. I do not observe anything
of the kind in it' (Every-Day Life of Lincoln, pp.
The amendment suggested was allowed by the
President, and Mr. Chase requested to supply the
words he desired to be inserted. The paragraph
quoted was accordingly prepared by him and in-
cluded in the Proclamation. This fact is also ad-
mitted by Holland in his "Life of Lincoln" (p.
HON. JESSE W. WEIK.
Judge Weik, of Greencastle, Ind., who was asso-
ciated with Mr. Herndon in the preparation of his
" Life of Lincoln," in a lecture on " Lincoln's Bov-
hood and Early Manhood," delivered in Plymouth
Church, Indianapolis, Feb. 4, 1891. said :
"As a young man he sat back of the country store
stove and said the Bible was not inspired, and
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 275
Christ was not the Son of God " (Indianapolis News,
Feb. 5, '91).
CHARLES WALLACE FRENCH.
One of the last biographies of Lincoln that has
appeared is " Abraham Lincoln The Liberator,"
written by Charles W. French. After citing with
approval some of Mr. Herndon's statements regard-
ing Lincoln's belief, Mr. French says :
"The world was his [Lincoln's] church. His
sermons were preached in kindly words and merciful
deeds " (p. 91).
CYRUS 0. POOLE.
I quote next from a monograph on " The Relig-
ious Convictions of Abraham Lincoln," written by
Cyrus O. Poole. Referring to Arnold's and Hol-
land's biographies of Lincoln, Mr. Poole says :
" Most sectarians now think, write, and act as if
they had a copyright to apply ' Christian ' to every-
thing good and God-like about this President ; yet
no one presumed to call him a Christian until after
" It may be a soul-saving process like the ancient
one of Pope Gregory in the sixth century. It is re-
lated that one day he was meditating on an anecdote
of the Pagan Emperor Tragan's having turned back,
when at the head of his legions on his way to battle,
to render justice to a poor widow who flung herself
276 ABRAHAM LINCOLN!
at his horse's feet. It seemed to Gregory that the
soul of a prince so good could not be forever lost,
Pagan though he was ; and he prayed for him, till a
voice declared Tragan to have been saved through
his intercession. And thus, through the prayer of a
Christian Pope, a pagan of the first, was materialized
into a Christian in the sixth century, and was, of
course, transferred from hell to heaven. Now be-
hold how a modern politician [Arnold] can play
theologian in Christianizing Abraham Lincoln.
"There is now hope for Benjamin Franklin,
John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, as well as
the chieftains, Bed Jacket, Tecumseh, and Black
Respecting Lincoln's message to his dying father,
Mr. Poole, himself a firm believer in the doctrine of
immortality, says :
" This prophetic affirmation of a continued exist-
ence, is the only written evidence of his views on
this momentous question that can be found."
In addition to the above, I cull from the same
work the following brief extracts :
" He lived in a remarkably formative and pro-
gressive period, and was in all matters fully abreast
with his time. As a truthful thinker, he greatly ex-
celled any of the statesmen of his day."
" Lincoln, like Socrates, was a man so natural, so
thoughtful, rational, and sagacious, that he clearly
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 277
saw that the popular traditional theology of his day
and age was not religion."
A CITIZEN OF SPRINGFIELD.
A gentleman residing in Springfield, 111., who was
intimately acquainted with Lincoln from the time he
located in that city up to the time he removed to
Washington, a period of nearly twenty-five years, in
a letter dated Aug. 20, 1887, writes as follows :
" I will say in regard to Mr. Lincoln's religious
views that he was not orthodox in his belief, unless
he changed after he left Springfield. He was hetero-
dox did not believe in the divinity of Christ in
short, was a Freethinker. Now I do not want to be
brought into public notice in this matter."
In deference to this writer's request his name is
omitted, and this omission desti*O3's, to a greatextent.
the value of his testimony. It is inserted not be-
cause it adds any particular weight to the evidence
already adduced, but as a specimen of a very large
amount of evidence of the same character that must
be withheld simply because the persons writing or
interviewed shrink from publicity. A chapter, yes, a
volume, of this anonymous testimony might be given.
At least a hundred personal friends of Lincoln, living
in and about Springfield, privately and confidentially
assert that he was an Infidel, but will not permit
their names to be used. Twenty years ago a majority
278 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
of them would not have objected to their statements
being published ; but the relentless war waged by
the church against those who have publicly certified
to the facts has sealed their lips.
I now present to the reader another citizen of
Springfield, one who is not afraid to publicly ex-
press an honest opinion. Mr. Henry Walker, who
has resided in that city for many years, writes as
follows concerning Lincoln's religious belief :
" After inquiring of those who were intimate and
familiar with him, I arrive at the conclusion that he
was a Deist."
" There is a rumor current here that he once wrote
an anti-Christian pamphlet, but his friends per-
. suaded him not to publish it."
Mr. Walker was not personally acquainted with
Lincoln. His conclusion is simply based upon the
information obtained from those who were ac-
quainted with him. His statement, like the preced-
ing one, is introduced not so much because of any
especial value attaching to it as mere testimony, but
because it fairly represents the common sentiment
of those who have investigated this subject, and
particularly those who are on familiar terms with
Lincoln's old associates in Illinois. The knowledge
of our anonymous witness was shared by Dr. Smith,
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 279
Mr. Arnold, and Mr. Edwards ; the opinion ex-
pressed by Mr. Walker was the opinion privately
entertained by Dr. Holland, it is the opinion pri-
vately entertained by Mr. Bateman, yes, and unques-
tionably the opinion privately entertained by Mr.
An article on Lincoln's religion written by Mr.
Wm. Bissett, of Santa Ana, Cal., and recently pub-
lished in the Truth Seeker, contains some evidence
that deserves to be recorded. Mr. Bissett narrates
the following :
" In the Spring of 1859 we moved into Livingston
county, Mo., near Chillicothe. We at once became
acquainted with a man by the name of William
Jeeter. Mr. Jeeter was a native of Kentucky, and if
I mistake not, was born and raised in the same part
of the country that Mr. Lincoln was but about that
I am not sure. Mr. Jeeter told me that Lincoln and
himself settled in Illinois when they were young
men, and boarded together for a number of years.
He says he knew every act of Lincoln's life up to
the time he (Jeeter) left Illinois, a few years before
Mr. Lincoln's nomination for the Presidency. I was
helping Jeeter build a house for himself when we
received the news of Mr. Lincoln's nomination ; that
is why we came to speak so particularly about him.
280 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
Mr. Jeeter told me that Mr. Lincoln was not a be-
liever in the Christian religion ; that is, he did not
believe the Bible was an inspired work, nor that
Jesus Christ was the son of God. ' Nevertheless,'
said Mr. Jeeter, ' he was one of the most honest men
I ever knew. If I had a million dollars I wouldn't
be afraid to trust it to Lincoln without the scratch
of a pen, I know the man so well.' Mr. Jeeter was a
strong believer in the Christian religion and a mem-
ber of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, and a
very fine and reliable man."
The following is from an article on Lincoln by Mr.
Frederick Heath, of Milwaukee, Wis. :
" Two years ago I was associated with Major Geo.
H. Norris, a wealthy orange-grower of Florida, in
that state, and was in a degree his confidant. In
earlier years, while a lawyer in Illinois, Major
Norris (he was at one time mayor of Ottawa, 111.)
was quite closely associated with Mr. Lincoln, and
he gave me to understand that Mr. Lincoln was an
extreme skeptic. They were thrown together a good
deal at Springfield, where they were trying cases be-
fore the supreme court. Lincoln would frequently
keep them from sleep by his stories and arguments,
and frequently spoke of religious matters in a way
that showed he was convinced of the delusion
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 2&1
of faith. I wish I could quote the Major's words as
to Lincoln's remarks on religion, but will not venture
to frame them, as this is a subject that demands
truth and exactness."
REV. EDWARD EGGLESTOH, \
When Lincoln went to New York in the winter of
1860, to deliver his Cooper Institute address, he had
occasion to remain over Sunday in that city. At the
suggestion of a friend, he visited the famous Five
Points, and attended a Sunday-school where the
spawn of New York's worst inhabitants to the num-
ber of several hundred were assembled. Importuned
for a speech, he made a few remarks to the children,
and the fact was published in the papers. The idea
of this Infidel politician addressing a Sunday-school
was so ludicrous that it caused much merriment
among his friends at Springfield. When he returned
home one of them, probably Colonel Matheny, called
on him to learn what it all meant. The conversation
that followed, including Lincoln's explanation of the
affair, is thus related by the noted preacher and
author, Edward Eggleston :
" He started for ' Old Abe's ' office ; but bursting
open the door impulsively, found a stranger in con-
versation with Mr. Lincoln. He turned to retrace
his steps, when Lincoln called out, ' Jim ! What do
you want ?' ' Nothing.' ' Yes, you do ; come back.'
After some entreaty Jim approached Mr. Lincoln,
and remarked, with a twinkle in his eye, 'Well,
Abe, I see you have been making a speech to Sunday-
school children. What's the matter ?' * Sit down,
Jim, and I'll tell vou all about it.' And with that
Lincoln put his feet on the stove and began : ' When
Sunday morning came, I didn't know exactly what
to do. Washburne asked me where I was going. I
told him I had nowhere to go ; and he proposed to
take me down to the Five Points Sunday-school, to
show me something worth seeing. I was very much
interested by what I saw. Presently, Mr. Pease
came up and spoke to Mr. Washburne, who intro-
duced me. Mr. Pease wanted us to speak. Wash-
burne spoke, and then I was urged to speak. I told
them I did not know anything about talking to Sun-
day-schools, but Mr. Pease said many of the children
were friendless and homeless, and that a few words
would do them good. Washburne said I must talk.
And so I rose to speak ; but I tell you, Jim, I didn't
know what to say. I remembered that Mr. Pease
said that they were homeless and friendless, and I
thought of the time when I had been pinched by
terrible poverty. And so I told them that I had
been poor ; that I remembered when my toes stuck
out through my broken shoes in winter ; when my
arms were out at the elbows ; when I shivered with
the cold, /A-^d 1 told them there was only one rule.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 283
That was, always do the very best you can. I told
them that I had always tried to do the very best I
could ; and that, if they would follow that rule, they
would get along somehow. That was about
what I said ' " (E very-Day Life of Lincoln, pp. 322,
The foregoing is significant. Lincoln was not an
advocate of Sunday-schools. He had probably never
visited one before. As generally conducted, he re-
garded them as simply nurseries of superstition.
He could not indorse the religious ideas taught in
them, and he was not there that day to antagonize
them. As a consequence, this ready talker this
man who had been making speeches all his life
was, for the first time, at a loss to know what to say.
He could not talk to them about the Bible he could
not tell them that " it is the best gift which God
has given to man " that " all the good from the
Savior of the world is communicated to us through
this book " that " but for this book we could not
know right from wrong" he could not tell them
how Jesus had died for little children, and all this,
because. he did not believe it. But he obeyed his
own life-long rule, did the best he could under the
embarrassing circumstances, and gave them a little
wholesome advice entirely free from the usual Sun-
ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
REV. ROBERT COLLYER.
Robert Collyer states that Lincoln, just before he
was elected President, visited the office of the
Chicago Tribune, and picking up a volume of Theo-
dore Parker's writings, turned to Dr. Ray and re-
marked: " I think that I stand about where that man
The lamented Allen Thorndike Eice, whose
brilliant editorial management of the North American
Revieiv has placed this periodical in the front rank
of American magazines, in his Introduction to the
" Reminiscences of Lincoln," says :
" The Western settlers had no respect for English
traditions, whether of Church or of State. Accus-
tomed all their lives to grapple with nature face to
face, they thought and they spoke, with all the bold-
ness of unrestrained sincerity, on every topic of
human interest or of sacred memory, without the
slightest recognition of any right of external author-
ity to impose restrictions, or even to be heard in
protest against their intellectual independence. As
their life developed the utmost independence of
creed and individuality, he whose originality was
the most fearless and self-contained was chief among
them. Among such a people, blood of their blood
and bone of their bone, differing from them only in
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 285
stature, Abraham Lincoln arose to rule the American
people with a more than kingly power, and received
from them a more than feudal loyalty."
So eager is the church for proofs of Lincoln's
piety that the most incredible anonymous story in
support of this claim is readily accepted and pub-
lished by the religious press as authentic history.
By this means the masses have gradually come to
regard Lincoln as a devout Christian. It is evident
that Mr. Bice had these fabulous tales in mind when
he wrote the following :
" Story after story and trait after trait, as varying
in value as in authenticity, has been added to the
Lincolniana, until at last the name of the great war
President has come to be a biographic lodestone,
attracting without distinction or discrimination both
the true and the false."
ROBERT C. ADAMS.
The noted author, Capt. Robert G. Adams, of
Montreal, Can., says :
" It is significant that in political revolution it is
the Freethinker who is usually the leader. Franklin,
Paine, Jefferson, Washington, were the chief found-
ers of the American Republic, and Lincoln presided
at its second birth. Mazzini and Garibaldi are the
heroes of United Italy; Rousseau,Voltaire, and Victor
Hugo have been the chief inspirers of Democratic
France " (New Ideal),
286 ABRAHAM LINCOLN!
In the Westminster Review for September, 1891,
Mr. Stanton had an article discussing the moral
character and religious belief of Abraham Lincoln.
Of his religious belief, he says :
" If Lincoln had lived and died an obscure Spring-
field lawyer and politician he would unquestionably
have been classed by his neighbors among Free-
thinkers. But, as is customary with the church,
whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, when Lin-
coln became oue of the great of the world an attempt
was made to claim him. In trying to arrive at a
correct comprehension of Lincoln's theology this
fact should be borne in mind in sifting the testi-
" Another very important warping influence which
should not be lost sight of was Lincoln's early am-
bition for political preferment. Now, the shrewd
American politician with an elastic conscience joins
some church, and is always seen on Sunday in the
front pews. But the shrewd politician who has not
an elastic conscience and this was Lincoln's case
simply keeps mum on his religious views, or, when
he must touch on the subject, deals only in
After citing the testimony of many of Lincoln's
friends, Mr. Stanton concludes :
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 287
" A man about whose theology such things can be
said is of course far removed from orthodoxy. It
may even be questioned whether he is a Theist,
whether he is a Deist. That he is a Freethinker is
evident ; that he is an Agnostic is probable."
GEO. M. M
In the Open Court for Nov. 26, 1891, Mr. McCrie
contributes an article on " What Was Abraham
Lincoln's Creed?" Concerning Lincoln's allusions
to God, he says :
" A Deity thus shelved or not shelved, according
to the dictates of political expediency, or of individ-
ual opinion as to the ' propriety ' of either course is
no Deity at all. He is as fictional as the 'John
Doe ' or ' Richard Hoe ' of a legal writ, and anyone
making use of such a creation the puppet, not the
parent, of his own Egoity is supposed to know
with what he is dealing. Orthodox religionism may
well despair of Abraham Lincoln as of George
Washington, Benjamin Franklin, or President
GEN. M. M. TRUMBULL.
Gen. Trumbull, of Chicago, in the Open Court of
Dec. 3, 1891, writes :
" The religion that begs the patronage of presi-
dents doubts its own theology, for the true God
ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
needs not the favor of men. . . . Some of his
[Lincoln's] tributes to Deity are merely rhetorical
emphasis, but others were not. Cicero often swore
* By Hercules/ as in the oration against Catiline, al-
though he believed no more in Hercules than Abra-
ham Lincoln believed in any church-made God."
REV. DAVID SWING, D.D.
In a sermon on " Washington and Lincoln," the
most eminent and popular divine of Chicago, Dr.
Swing, said :
" It is often lamented by the churchmen that
Washington and Lincoln possessed little religion
except that found in the word ' God.' All that can
here be affirmed is that what the religion of those
two men lacked in theological details it made up in
greatness. Their minds were born with a love of
great principles. . . . There are few instances
in which a mind great enough to reach great
principles in politics has been satisfied with a
fanatical religion. ... It must not be asked
for Washington and Lincoln that, having reached
greatness in political principles, they should have
loved littleness in piety."
REV. JENKIN LLOYD JONES.
The Rev. J. Lloyd Jones, one of Chicago's most
eloquent divines, in a sermon preached in All Souls
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 289
Church, Dec. 9, 1888, gave utterance to the follow-
"Are there not thousands who have loved virtue
Tvho did not accept Jesus Christ in any supernatural
or miraculous fashion, who if they knew of him at
all knew of him only as the Nazarine peasant the
man Jesus ? Such was Abraham Lincoln, the tender
prophet of the gospel of good will upon earth ;
Charles Sumner, the great apostle of human liberty ;
Gerrit Smith, the St. John of political reform ;
William Ellery Channing, our sainted preacher;
Theodore Parker, the American Luther, hurling
his defiance at the devils of bigotry ; John Stuart
Mill and Harriet Martineau ves, to take an ex-
treme case, the genial and over-satirical Robert G.
Ingersoll, are among those who love goodness and
foster nobility, though they have no clear vision
into futurity and confess no other lordship in him of
Nazareth save the dignity of aim and tenderness of
REV. JOHN W. CHADWICK.
In an address delivered in Tremont Temple, Bos-
ton, May 30, 1872, the Eev. John W. Chadwick, of
Brooklyn, N. Y., referring to the proposed religious
amendment to the Constitution of the United States,
"Of the six men who have done most to make
America the wonder and the joy she is to all of us,
not one could be the citizen of a government so con-
stituted ; for Washington and Franklin and Jeffer-
son, certainly the three mightiest leaders in our
early history, were heretics in their day, Deists, as
men called them ; and Garrison and Lincoln and
Sumuer, certainly the three mightiest in these later
times, would all be disfranchised by the proposed
'" Lincoln could not have taken the oath of office
had such a clause been in the Constitution."
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 291
EVIDENCE GATHERED FROM LINCOLN^ LETTERS,
SPEECHES, AND CONVERSATIONS.
The Bible and Christianity Christ's Divinity Future Rewards and
Punishments Freedom of Mind Fatalism Providence Lines in
Copy-book Parker Paine Opposition of Church Clerical Officious-
ness Rebuked Irreverent Jokes Profanity Temperance Reform In-
dorsement of Lord Bolingbroke's Writings G-oldeu Rule.
THE testimony of one hundred witnesses will now
be supplemented by evidence from the tongue and
pen of Lincoln himself. The greater portion of what
he wrote and uttered against Christianity has
perished ; but enough has been preserved to dem-
onstrate, even in the absence of other evidence,
that he was not a Christian. From his letters,
speeches, and recorded conversations, the following
radical sentiments have been extracted.
Notwithstanding the efforts of Holland and Bate-
man to prove that Lincoln was a believer in Chris-
tianity, it is admitted that in his conversation with
Bate man, he said :
" I am not a Christian " (Holland's Life of Lincoln,
pp. 236, 237).
292 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
When his Christian friends at Petersburg inter-
fered to prevent his proposed duel with Shields, and
told him that it was contrary to the teachings of the
Bible and Christianity, he remarked :
" The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my
profession " (Letter of W. Perkins).
While at Washington, in a letter to his old friend,
Judge Wakefield, written in 1862, in answer to inqui-
ries respecting his belief and the expressed hope
that he had become convinced of the truth of Chris-
tianity, he replied as follows :
"My earlier views of the unsoundness of the
Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin
of the Scriptures have become clearer and stronger
with advancing years and I see no reason for think-
ing I shall ever change them."
In a discussion touching upon the paternity of
Jesus, he said :
" There must have been sexual intercourse between
man and woman, and not between God and his
The above words were uttered in the presence of
Mr. Green Caruthers and Mr. W. A. Browning, of
Lincoln contended that Jesus was either the son
of Joseph and Mary, or the illegitimate son of
In a conversation with his friend, Mr. E. H.
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 293
Wood, of Springfield, concerning the doctrine of end-
less punishment, he said :
" There is no hell."
In regard to this subject, he often observed :
" If God be a just God, all will be saved or none "
(Manford J s Magazine).
The orthodox idea of God a God that creates
poor, fallible beings, and then forever damns them
for failing to believe what it is impossible for them
to believe he abhorred. The Golden Eule was his
moral standard, and bv this standard he measured
not only the conduct of man, but of God himself.
Like th^ irrepressible Dr. T. L. Brown, he wanted
God to " damn others as he would be damned him-
self." He delighted to repeat the epitaph of the old
Kickapoo Indian, Johnnie Kongapod :
" Here lies poor Johnnie Kongapod;
Have mercy on him, gracious God,
As he would do if he were God
And you were Johnnie Kongapod."
Lincoln thought that God ought at least to be as
merciful as a respectable savage.
M:i!iy contend that the doctrine of future rewards
and punishments, even if untrue, has a restraining
influence upon the masses of mankind. That Lin-
coln did not share this fallacious opinion, is shown
by the following extract from an address delivered
in Springfield in 1842 :
ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
" Pleasures to be enjoyed, or pains to be endured,
after we shall be dead and gone, are but little re-
garded. . . . There is something so ludicrous,
in promises of good, or threats of evil, a great way
off, as to render the whole subject with which they
are connected, easily turned into ridicule. * Better
lay down that spade you're stealing, Paddy if you
don't, you'll pay for it at the Day of Judgment.'
1 Be the powers, if ye'll credit me so long I'll take
another* ' (Lincoln Memorial Album, p. 91).
Commenting upon the question of one's returning
and communicating with his friends after death, he
" It is a doubtful question whether we ever get
anywhere to get back' 1 (Statement of E. H. Wood).
He did not believe in the freedom of the will.
An observation which he repeatedly made was the
" No man has a freedom of mind " (Testimony of
W. H. Herndon).
His fatalistic notions are confirmed by his own
" I have all my life been a fatalist. What is to be
will be ; or, rather, I have found all my life, as
Hamlet says :
1 There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.' "
(Every-Day Life of Lincoln, p. 198).
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 295
The following was a favorite maxim with him :
" What is to be will be, and no prayers of ours can
arrest the decree " (Statement of Mrs. Lincoln).
In a speech on Kansas, delivered in 1856, he used
the following words in regard to Providence :
" Friends, I agree with you in Providence ; but I
believe in the Providence of the most men, the
largest purse, and the longest cannon" (Lincoln's
Speeches, p. 140).
The writer has in his possession, among others of
Lincoln's papers, a leaf from his copybook, tattered
and yellow from age, on which, seventy years ago,
Lincoln, a school-boy of fourteen, wrote the follow-
ing characteristic lines :
" Abraham Lincoln, his hand and pen ;
He will be good, but God knows when."
If by good he meant pious, the prophecy was never
But a short time before he was elected President,
he said to Dr. Bay :
" I think that I stand about where that man [Theo-
dore Parker] stands" (Statement of Rev. Robert
The author whose writings exerted the greatest
influence upon Lincoln's mind, in a theological way,
was Thomas Paine. Ah! that potential "Age of
Reason! " Criticise it as you may, no one ever yet
296 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
carefully perused its pages and then honestly affirmed
that the Bible is the infallible word of God. Hern-
don and others declare that Paine was a part of
Lincoln from 1834 till his death. To a friend he
" I never tire of reading Paine " (Statement of
In the later years of his life, when the subject of
religion was mentioned, with a knowing smile, he
was wont to remark :
" It will not do to investigate the subject of relig-
ion too closely, as it is apt to lead to Infidelity "
It has been stated that Lincoln was opposed in
his political campaigns on account of his disbelief.
This is confirmed by a letter he wrote to Martin M.
Morris, of Petersburg, 111., March 26, 1843. In this
letter, he says :
"There was, too, the strangest combination of
church influence against me. Baker is a Campbell-
ite ; and therefore, as I suppose, with few exceptions,
got all that church. My wife has some relatives in
the Presbyterian churches, and some with the Epis-
copal churches ; and therefore, wherever it would
tell, I was set down as either the one or the other,
while it was everywhere contended that no Christian
ought to go for me, because I belonged to no church
was suspected of being a Deist. . . . Those
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 297
influences levied a tax of a considerable per cent upon
my strength throughout the religious controversy '
(Lamon's Life of Lincoln, p. 271).
He never changed his opinions, and the church
never ceased to oppose him. In the Bateman inter-
view, seventeen years later, he was compelled to note
its relentless intolerance :
" Here are twenty-three ministers of different de-
nominations, and all of them are against me but
three ; and here are a great many prominent mem-
bers of the churches, a very large majority of whom
are against me " (Holland's Life of Lincoln, p. 236).
For thirty years the church endeavored to crush
Lincoln, but when, in spite of her malignant opposi-
tion, he achieved a glorious immortality, this same
church, to hide the mediocrity of her devotees, at-
tempts to steal his deathless name.
In a speech delivered in Springfield, in ' 1857,
alluding to the negro, he said :
" All the powers of the earth seem rapidly combin-
ing against him. Mammon is after him, . . .
and the theology of the day is fast joining in the
cry' (Lincoln Memorial Album, p. 100).
The theology of the day was orthodox Christian-
ity. " In this sentence," says Mr. Herndon, " he in-
tended to hit Christianity a left-handed blow, and a
In his Second Inaugural address, referring to the
298 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
contending Christian elements in the civil war, he
" Both read the same Bible and pray to the same
God, and each invokes his aid against the other."
What a commentary upon the hypocritical assump-
tion that Christians possess an infallible moral
standard, is contained in the above words !
'The'" Lincoln Memorial Album " pretends to give
the Second Inaugural complete, but omits the words
quoted. As this address comes almost immediately
after 'his reputed speech to the " Illinois clergyman,"
the editor probably noticed a lack of harmony be-
tween the two, and thought that the retention oi
these heretical words would cast suspicion upon the
genuineness of that remarkable confession. The
"Memorial Album " is a meritorious work, but had
Mr. Oldroyd manifested as great a desire to present
the genuine utterances of Lincoln as the apocryphal,
its value would have been enhanced. The nn muti-
lated version of the last Inaugural may be found in
Holland's " Life of Lincoln," pp. 503, 504 ; Arnold's
" Life of Lincoln," pp. 403, 404 ; Arnold's " Lincoln
and Slavery," pp. 625-627 ; and " The Every-Day
Life of Lincoln," pp. 681, 682.
No President, probably, was ever so much annoyed
by the clergy as Lincoln. The war produced an in-
creased religious fervor, and theological tramps in-
numerable, usually labeled " D. P.," visited the
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 299
White House, each with a mission to perform and a
precious morsel of advice to offer. In the following
caustic words, he expresses his contempt for their
" I am approached with the most opposite opinions
and advice, and by religious men who are certain
they represent the Divine will. ... I hope it
will not be irreverent in me to say, that if it be
probable that God would reveal his will to others,
on a point so connected with my duty, it might be
supposed he would reveal it directly to me " (Eelig-
ious Convictions of Abraham Lincoln).
Equally pertinent, and, indeed, similar was his
language to a pious lady, a Friend, who came as
God's agent to instruct him what to do :
" I have neither time nor disposition to enter into I
discussion with the Friend, and end this occasion
by suggesting for her consideration the question,
whether, if it be true that the Lord has appointed
me [she claimed that he had] to do the works she
has indicated, it is not probable that he would have
communicated knowledge of the fact to me as well
as to her?" (E very-Day Life of Lincoln, pp. 536,
He steadily prohibited his generals from meddling
with the religious affairs of those residing within the
limits of their respective departments, and at the
same time counseled them not to permit the pre-
300 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
tended sanctity of the church to shield offenders
In a letter to General Curtis, censuring the pro-
vost marshal of St. Louis for interfering with church
matters, he writes :
" The United States Government must not under-
take to run the churches. When an individual in
a church, or out of it, becomes dangerous to the
public interest he must be checked " (Nicolay and
Hay's Life of Lincoln).
In an order relating to a church in Memphis,
issued May 13, 1864, he said :
" If there be no military need for the building,
leave it alone, neither putting any one in or out of
it, except on finding some one preaching or practic-
ing treason, in which case lay hands upon him, just
as if he were doing the same thing in any other
During the war his attention was called to the
notoriously bad character of army chaplains. He
expressed his contempt for them, and for orthodox
preachers generally, by relating the following story :
f " Once, in Springfield, I was going off on a short
journey, and reached the depot a little ahead of
time. Leaning against the fence just outside the
depot was a little darky boy, whom I knew, named
Dick, busily digging with his toe in a mud-puddle.
As I came up, I said, ' Dick, what are you about ?
WAS HE A CHBISTIAN? 301
' Making a church,' said he. ' A church ?' said I ;
'what do you mean?' 'Why, yes/ said Dick, point-
ing with his toe, * don't you see ? there is the shape
of it ; there's the steps and front door here's the
pews, where the folks set and there's the pulpit.'
* Yes, I see,' said I, ' but why don't you make a
minister ?' ' Laws,' answered Dick, with a grin, * I
hain't got mud enough ' " (Anecdotes of Lincoln, p. .
The most highly aristocratic church in Washing-
ton is St. John's Episcopal church, So very aristo-
cratic is it that applicants for membership deem it
necessary to give references respecting their social
standing in the community. The New York Star
relates the following joke which Lincoln once perpe-
trated at the expense of this church :
" One day during the war a young officer called on
him to secure an appointment in the army, and
brought with him letters of recommendation signed
by the F. F. V.'s in the District of Columbia. There
had been no application for office before President
Lincoln so strongly supported by the aristocracy,
and, turning to the young man, he said he would
give him the appointment and handed him back the
papers. * Don't you want to place the papers on
file ?' asked the office-seeker. ' I supposed that was
the custom.' ' Yes, that is the custom,' said Presi-
dent Lincoln, 'but you had better take them
302 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
with you, as you might want to join St. John's
church. 1 "
Did Lincoln ever use profane language ? If he
did, this fact will afford no evidence to Freethinkers
that he was a disbeliever in Christianity. Free-
thinkers are as free from this vice, if vice it be, as
Christians. Very pious persons, however, such as
Lincoln is represented to have been by his Christian
biographers, are very careful about their use of pro-
fane words. Christ commanded his "followers to
pray in private, and bade them swear not at all.
Devout Christians usually pray in public and swear
in private. Lincoln was but little addicted to pro-
fanity, but if he had occasion to use a word of this
character he did not go to his closet to use it. In a
business letter to a friend, he said :
"Ad d hawk-billed Yankee is here besetting
me at every turn " (Lamon's Life of Lincoln, p. 316).
In a letter to Speed, concerning an alleged murder
case, he wrote :
" Hart, the little drayman that hauled Molly
home once, said it was too damned bad to have so
much trouble and no hanging " (Ibid, p. 321).
For the sake of pleasing the " fools," he attached
Ms signature to " the pious nonsense of Seward."
With equal readiness he indorsed the profane non-
sense (?) of Stanton. During the war the patriotic
Lovejoy had devised a military scheme which he
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 303
believed would prove beneficial to the Union cause,
and obtained an order from the President for its
execution. He took the order to Stanton, but all
that ever resulted from it was the following spirited
" * Did Lincoln give you an order of that kind ?'
said Staiiton. 4 He did, sir.' * Then he is a d d
fool/ said the irate Secretary. 'Do you mean to
say the President is a d d fool?' asked Lovejoy,
in amazement. 'Yes, sir, if he gave you such an
order as that.' The bewildered Illinoisan betook
himself at once to the President, and related the
result of his conference. " Did Stanton say I was a
d d fool ?' asked Lincoln at the close of the
recital. 'He did, sir, and repeated it.' After a
moment's pause, and looking up, the President said :
' If Stanton said I was a d d fool, then / must be
one, for he is nearly always right, and generally says
what he means ' " (Every-Day Life of Lincoln, pp.
At a Cabinet meeting, in 1863, when a conflict
between the President and Congress regarding the
admission of certain representatives from loyal dis-
tricts of the South, which he favored, was threat-
ened, he turned to Secretary Chase, and exclaimed :
" There it is, sir. I am to be bullied by Congress,
ami? If I do I'll bed d !"
When Lincoln visited New Orleans he attended a
304 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
slave sale. A beautiful girl, almost white, was placed
upon the auction block and exposed to the grossest
indignities. As he turned to leave, boiling with
indignation, he exclaimed :
" By God, if I ever get a chance to hit that insti-
tution, I will hit it hard " (Arnold's Life of Lincoln,
Thirty years later the chance came. He struck
the blow a mortal one.
The following is a prayer which Lincoln, while at
the White House, put into the mouth of a belated
traveler who was caught in a violent thunder-
" O Lord, if it is all the same to you, give us a
little more light and a little less noise !" (Six Months
at the White House, p. 49).
Is it possible that a Christian and a Calvinist
would repeat such an irreverent, not to say blas-
phemous, supplication ? According to the Brooklyn
Calvinist, God visits such supplicants with paralysis
Like most Freethinkers, Lincoln was a genuine
reformer. The Antislavery reform was not the only
reform that enlisted his support. At an early day
he espoused the Temperance cause. When the
church was the ally of intemperance as it was of
slavery when, to use his own words, " From the
sideboard of the parson down to the ragged pocket
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 305
of the houseless loafer intoxicating liquor was con-
stantly found," he was laboring and lecturing in
behalf of the Washingtonian movement. With the
fervor of an enthusiast, he exclaims in true Free-
thought language :
" Happy day, when, all appetites controlled, all
passions subdued, all matter subjugated, mind, all-
conquering mind, shall live and move, the monarch
of the world ! Glorious consummation ! Hail, fall
of fury ! Reign of Reason, all hail /" (Lincoln Me-
morial Album, p. 96).
To sumptuary laws and to the denunciatory
methods so common among orthodox Christians
to-day, he was, however, strenuously opposed. He
"It is not much in the nature of man to be driven
to anything ; still less to be driven about that which
is exclusively his own business" (Ibid, p. 86).
" When the conduct of men is designed to be in-
fluenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion,
should ever be adopted " (Ib., p. 87).
His nephew, Mr. Hall, informed me that Lincoln
once made it cost a meddlesome clergyman, of Coles
County, eighty dollars for seizing and destroying a
quart of whisky, valued at twelve and a half cents,
and belonging to a relative of theirs.
In this chapter I wish to present some radical
thoughts, not from the pen of Lincoln himself, but
306 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
which in the work from which they are taken bear
unmistakable signs of his approval. Mr. D. W. C.
Shattuck, an old and respected merchant of Way-
land, Mich., has in his possession a book which be-
longed to Lincoln. Its history is as follows : Shortly
after Lincoln's election to the Presidency a young
man from Springfield, 111., and a relative or intimate
acquaintance of Lincoln's, came to board with Mr.
Shattuck, who then resided in Kalamazoo. Looking
over the contents of his trunk one day the young
man picked up a book and at the same time
remarked : " That book belongs to Abe Lincoln. I
forgot to return it to him before leaving Springfield.
It is his favorite book, and I must not fail to return
it." Mr. Shattuck expressing a desire to peruse the
work, it was handed to him, and the young man
being soon after unexpectedly called away, it was
forgotten. It proved to be a volume of the writings
of Lord Bolingbroke, the great English Infidel. On
a fly-leaf was the signature of Abraham Lincoln. In
the work certain passages which seem to have espe-
cially impressed Lincoln are marked with a pencil
and in a manner peculiar to him. The following are
the passages he marked, which I have copied from
the book, and which evidently received his unquali-
fied indorsement :
"Abbadie says in his famous book, that the
(gospel of St. Matthew is cited by Clemens Bishop
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 307
of Borne, a disciple of the Apostles ; that Barnabas
cites it in his epistle ; that Ignatius and Poly carp
receive it ; and that the same Fathers, that give
testimony for Matthew, give it likewise for Mark.
Nay, your lordship will find, I believe, that the
present Bishop of London, in his third pastoral
letter, speaks to the same effect. I will not trouble
you nor myself with any more instances of the same
kind. Let this, which occurred to me as I was writ-
ing, suffice. It may well suffice ; for I presume the
fact advanced by the minister and the Bishop is :i
mistake. If the Fathers of the First Century do
mention some passages that are agreeable to what
we read in our Evangelists, will it follow that these
Fathers had the same gospels before them ? To say
so is a manifest abuse of history, and quite inex-
cusable in writers that knew, or should have known,
that these Fathers made use of other gospels,
wherein such passages might be contained, or they
might be preserved in unwritten tradition. Besides
which I could almost venture to affirm that these
Fathers of the First Century do not expressly name
the gospels we have of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
" Writers of the Roman religion have attempted to
show, that the text of the Holy Writ is on many ac-
counts insufficient to be the sole criterion of ortho-
doxy ; I apprehend too that they have shown it.
308 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
Sure I am that experience, from the first promulga-
tion of Christianity to this hour, shows abundantly
with how much ease and success the most opposite,
the most extravagant, nay the most impious opinions,
and the most contradictory faiths, may be founded
on the same text ; and plausibly defended by the
same authority. Writers of the Reformed religion
have erected their batteries against tradition ; and
the only difficulty they had to encounter in this
enterprise lay in leveling and pointing their cannon
so as to avoid demolishing, in one common ruin, the
traditions they retain, and those they reject. Each
side has been employed to weaken the cause and ex-
plode the system of his adversary ; and, whilst they
have been so employed, they have jointly laid their
axes to the root of Christianity ; for thus men will
be apt to reason upon what they have advanced. ' If
the text has not that authenticity, clearness, and
precision which are necessary to establish it as a
divine and a certain rule of faith and practice ; and
if the tradition of the church from the first ages of it
till the days of Luther and Calvin, has been
corrupted itself, and has served to corrupt the faith
and practice of Christians ; there remains at this time
no standard at all of Christianity. By consequence
either this religion was not originally of divine in-
stitution, or else God has not provided effectually for
preserving the genuine purity of it, and the gates of
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
hell have prevailed, in contradiction to his promise,
against the church.' "
" I have read somewhere, perhaps in the works of
St. Jerome, that this Father justifies the opinion of
those who think it impossible to fix any certain
chronology on that of the Bible ; and this opinion
will be justified still better, to the understanding of
every man that considers how grossly the Jews
blunder whenever they meddle with chronology."
" The resurrection of letters was a fatal period ; the
Christian system has been attacked, and wounded
too, very severely since that time."
When interrogated as to why he had never united
with any church, Lincoln replied :
" When you show me a church based on the Golden
Rule as its only creed, then I will unite with it."
He never joined a church, because of all the Chris-
tian sects, not one could show such a creed. The
Golden Rule conceding to others the same rights
he claimed for himself was, however, the very
cornerstone of Freethought, and hence he remained
ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
EECAPITULATION AND CONCLUSION.
Character of Christian Testimony Summary of Evidence Adduced
in Proof of Lincoln's Unbelief ouglas an Unbeliever Theodore
Parker's Theology Fallacy of (Maims Respecting Lincoln's Reputed
Conversion His Invocations of Deity His Alleged Regard for the
Sabbath The Church and Hypocrisy Lincoln's Religion.
IN the prosecution of this inquiry, the testimony
of one hundred and twenty witnesses has been pre-
sented. The testimony of twenty of these witnesses
is to the effect that Lincoln was a Christian ; the
testimony of one hundred is to the effect that he was
Of those who have testified in support of the claim
that Lincoln was a Christian, ten admit that during
a part of his life he was a disbeliever in Christianity,
while not one of the remaining ten disputes the fact.
If he never changed his belief then he died an unbe-
liever. Did he change his belief and become a con-
vert to Christianity ? It devolves upon those who
affirm that he did to prove it. ^Have they done this ?
They have not. Their attempts have been in every
instance pitiable failures. The unreasonable and
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 811
conflicting character of the testimony adduced
refutes itself. When was he converted? No less
than five different dates have been assigned. One
witness states that it was in 1848 ; one, that it was
in 1858 ; another, that it was in 1862 ; another, that
it was in July, 1863 ; and still another, that it was
in November, 1863.
The remarkable character of the statements re-
corded in Chapter I. remarkable when compared
with the statements given in the preceding ten chap-
ters, and not less remarkable when compared with
each other may be variously accounted for. A
part of them are based upon a false premise, an
erroneous conception of what the term Christian
means ; a portion of them are merely the expressions
of beliefs unsupported by actual knowledge ; while
a not inconsiderable share of them are the state-
ments of those who have knowingly and deliberately
borne false witness. These witnesses comprise : 1.
Those who do not know what constitutes a Christian
who confound Christianity with morality who
affirm that he was a Christian simply because he
was a moral man. 2. Those who do not know what
his religious views were, but who infer that he was
a Christian because others have declared that he
was, and because of the frequent allusions to Deity
that occur in his speeches and state papers. 3.
Those who know that he was not a Christian, but
312 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
who believe it to be right and proper to lie for the
glory of Christianity and the profit of its priests.
The testimony advanced in support of the claim of
Lincoln's Christianity is, for the most part, the testi-
mony of orthodox Christians a majority of them
orthodox clergymen. Dr. Holland, the chief of these
Christian claimants, says : " The fact is a matter of
history that he never exposed his own religious life
to those who had no sympathy with it." This, so
far as the later years of his life are concerned, is
substantially true ; and this very fact precludes the
possibility of these orthodox witnesses being able to
state from personal knowledge what his religious
In refutation of this claim, I have presented the
testimony of those who were nearest to Lincoln, in
the confidential relations of life. I have presented
the testimony of his wife, the testimony of his step-
mother, the testimony of his step-sister, the testi-
mony of his cousin, the testimony of his nephew,
the testimony of his three law partners, the testi-
mony of four members of his Cabinet, the testimony
of his private secretary, the testimony of his exec-
utor, the testimony of seven of his biographers, and
the testimony of many more of his most intimate
friends both in Illinois and at Washington.
That he was not an orthodox Christian, as claimed,
is attested by nearly all of the one hundred witnesses
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 313
whose testimony has been given ; that he was not in
any sense of the term a Christian is proved by the
testimony of a majority of them.
I affirmed that he was not religious in his youth
that he was a skeptic in Indiana. In proof of this I
have adduced the testimony of his step-mother,
Sarah Lincoln ; his step-sister, Matilda Moore ; his
cousin, Dennis F. Hanks ; his nephew, John Hall;
his law partner, W. H. Herndon, and his biographer,
Col. Ward H. Lamon.
I affirmed that he was an Infidel or Freethinker,
during the thirty years that he resided in Illinois.
In support of this I have given the testimony of
Colonel Lamon, W. H. Herndon, Maj. John T.
Stuart, Col. James H. Matheny, Dr. C. H. Kay, W.
H. Hannah, James W. Keys, Jesse W. Fell, Judge
David Davis, Wm. McNeely, Mr. Lynan, Wm. G.
Green, Joshua F. Speed, Green Caruthers, Squire
Perkins, Judge Gillespie, John Decamp, James
Gorley, Dr. Wm. Jayne, Jesse K. Dubois, Judge
Logan, Leonard Swett, W. H. T. Wakefield, D. W.
Wilder, Dr. B. F. Gardner, J. K. Vandemark, Judge
Leachman, Orin B. Gould, Edward Butler, M. S.
Go win, J. H. Che nery, J. B.'Spalding, Ezra String-
ham, Col. E. G. Ingersoll, A. Jeffrey, Dr. McNeal,
Charles McGrew, J. L. Morrell, Judge A. D. Norton,
W. W. Perkins, H. K. Magie, James Tuttle, Leonard
Volk, Col. F. S. Rutherford, E. H. Wood, Dr.
314 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
J. J. Thomson, A. J. Grover, Judge Nelson, and
I affirmed that he did not change his belief after
leaving Illinois that he was not converted to Chris-
tianity at Washington that he died an unbeliever.
In confirmation of this I have presented the testi-
mony of his wife, Mary Lincoln ; of his private
secretary, Colonel Nicolay ; of his executor, Judge
Davis ; of his biographer, Colonel Lamon ; and of his
intimate associates, Geo. W. Julian, John B. Alley,
Schuyler Colfax, Hugh McCulloch, A. J. Grover,
Donn Piatt, Judge Nelson, and others.
Many of these witnesses simpty testify to his dis-
belief in the Christian svstem as a whole without
reference to his particular views concerning its in-
dividual tenets. Every statement of his unbelief as
presented in the Introduction has, however, been
substantiated by the testimony of one or more wit-
That he did not believe in the Christian Deity,
that he even held Agnostic and Atheistic views, at
times, is proved by the testimony of W. H. Herndon,
Colonel Matheny, Judge Nelson, Jesse K. Dubois,
and D. W. Wilder.
That he was an Agnostic in regard to the immor-
tality of the soul is attested by E. H. Wood, Judge
^Nelson, and W. H. Herndon.
That he did not bejieya that the Bible is the word
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 316
of God is affirmed by Colonel Lamon, John T.
Stuart, Judge Matheny, W. H. Herndon, Jesse W.
Fell, Dennis Hanks, W. Perkins, Colonel Ruther-
ford, and Chambers' Encyclopedia.
That he did not believe that Jesus Christ was the
son of God is affirmed by Colonel Lamon, W. H.
Herndon, Jesse W. Fell, Colonel Mathenv. John T.
I / 7
Stuart, Jas. W. Keys, Judge Nelson, D. W. Wilder,
Green Caruthers, Colonel Rutherford, Rev. J. Lloyd
Jones, Chambers' Encyclopedia, and the New York
That he did not believe in a special creation, the
statements of Mr. Herndon clearly prove.
That he accepted the theory of Evolution, so far
as this theory had been developed in the " Vestiges
of Creation" and other writings of his day, is at-
tested by the same witness.
That he did not admit the possibility of miracles
is confirmed bv the statement of Jesse W. Fell. W.
Perkins, Dennis Hanks, and Mr. Herndon.
That he rejected the Christian doctrine of total or
inherent depravity, William McNeely and Jesse W.
That he repudiated the doctrine of vicarious atone-
ment is sustained by the testimony of Jesse W. Fell,
Joshua F. Speed, W. Perkins, and Colonel Lamon.
That he condemned the doctrine of forgiveness for
sin, General Wilder and Mr. Herndon both testify.
316 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
That he opposed the doctrine of future rewards
and punishments, Wm. H. Hannah, E H. Wood, A.
Jeffrey, Jesse W. Fell, and Manford's Magazine, all
That he denied the freedom of the will, Mr. Hern-
don explicitly affirms.
That he did not believe in the efficacy of prayer is
fully established by the evidence of Mrs. Lincoln,
Mr. Herndon, and Dr. Gardner.
That he was a disciple of Thomas Paine and
Theodore Parker is shown by the evidence of Colo-
nelLamon, W. H. Herndon, James Tuttle, Jesse W.
Fell, Dr. Kay, Kobert Collyer, the New York World,
and Chambers' Encyclopedia.
That he wrote a book against Christianity is sus-
tained by the testimony of Colonel Matheny, Judge
Nelson, W. H. Herndon, Colonel Lamon, J. B.
Spalding, A. Jeffrey, J. H. Chenery, Chicago Herald,
Manford's Magazine, and Chambers' Encyclopedia.
' That Lincoln did not believe in the inspiration of
the Scriptures, that he did not believe in the divin-
ity of Christ, that he did not believe in the freedom
of the will, that he did not believe in future rewards
and punishments, that he did not believe in the effi-
cacy of prayer, that he was, in short, a disbeliever in
Christianity, is also attested by the evidence cited
from his own recorded words.
In connection with this controversy the signiil-
WAS HT3 A CHRISTIAN? 317
cance of the following facts cannot be overlooked :
1. Notwithstanding the strong temptation to credit
Lincoln to the popular faith, a majority of his biog-
raphers have either declared that he was not a
Christian, or have refrained from affirming that he
was. 2. The secular press, fearing to offend the
church, has generally been silent regarding the
question. When it has ventured to express an
opinion, however, it has been to concede his un-
belief. 3. The leading encyclopedias, such as the
Britannica, Chambers', New American, etc., have
either admitted that he was a Freethinker, or have
made no reference to his religious belief. 4. In the
" Lincoln Memorial Album ' appear two hundred
tributes to Lincoln, the greater portion of them
from the pens of Christians. In but two of these
two hundred tributes is it claimed that Lincoln was
a believer in Christianity. 5. The " Reminiscences
of Lincoln " contain thirty- three articles on Lincoln,
written by as many distinguished men who were
acquainted with him. In not a single instance in
this work, is it asserted that he was a Christian. 6.
In none of the leading eulogies pronounced upon
his character, at the time of his demise, is it affirmed
that he accepted Christ.
It is stated that during the last years of his life
Lincoln held substantially the same theological
opinions held by Theodore Parker. His own words
318 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
are, referring to Parker : "I think that I stand
about where that man stands." Where did Theo-
dore Parker stand ? The following extracts from
his writings will show :
" To obtain a knowledge of duty, a man is not
sent away, outside of himself, to ancient documents ;
for the only rule of faith and practice, the Word, is
very nigh him, even in his heart, and by this Word
he is to try all documents."
" There is no intercessor, angel, mediator, between
man and God ; for man can speak and God hear,
each for himself. He requires no advocates to plead
" Manly, natural religion it is not joining the
church ; it is not to believe in a creed Hebrew,
Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Trinitarian, Uni-
tarian, Nothingarian. It is not to keep Sunday
idle ; to attend meeting ; to be wet with water ; to
read the Bible; to offer prayers in words; to take
bread and wine in the meeting-house ; love a scape-
. goat Jesus, or any other theological claptrap."
^ If Lincoln was known to be a Freethinker, it may
be asked why this fact was not more generally pub-
lished and urged against him during the Presidential
campaign of 1860. The answer is easy. His chiei
opponent, Douglas, was himself a Freethinker.
Stephen A. Douglas, like Abraham Lincoln, died an
unbeliever. Like Washington, he declined the serv-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 319
ices of a clergyman in his last hours. The follow-
ing is an extract from a monograph on "The
Deathbed of Douglas," published in the Boston
" When Stephen A. Douglas lay stricken with
death at Chicago, his wife, who was a devout Roman
Catholic, sent for Bishop Duggan, who asked
whether he had ever been baptized according to the
rites of any church. * Never,' replied Mr. Douglas.
' Do you desire to have mass said after the ordi-
nances of the holy Catholic church ?' inquired the
Bishop. ' No, sir F answered Douglas ; * when I do
I will communicate with you freely.'
"The Bishop withdrew, but the next day Mrs.
Douglas sent for him again, and, going to the bed-
side, he said : * Mr. Douglas, you know your own
condition fully, and in view of your dissolution do
you desire the ceremony of extreme unction to be
performed ?' ' No !' replied the dying man, * I have
no time to discuss these things now.'
" The Bishop left the room, and Mr. Rhodes, who
was in attendance, said : * Do you know the clergy-
men of this city?' ~* Nearly every one of them.'
' Do you wish to have either or any of them call to
see you to converse on religious topics ?' ' No, I
thank you,' was the decided answer."
Among America's most eminent statesmen none
probably ever possessed a more logical mind than
320 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
Lincoln. Judge Davis says : " His inind was logical
and direct." James G. Blaine says : " His logic was
severe and faultless." George S. Boutwell says :
u He takes rank with the first logicians and orators
of every age." In his funeral oration at Springfield,
Bishop Simpson said : t
" If you ask me on what mental characteristic his
greatness rested, I answer, on a quick and ready
perception of facts ; on a memory unusually tenacious
and retentive ; and on a logical turn of mind, which
followed sternly and unwaveringly every link in the
chain of thought on every subject he was called to
Lincoln was once called to investigate the subject
of Christianity. He " followed sternly and unwaver-
ingly every link in the chain of thought ' suggested
by this subject, and the result was its rejection by
If he was subsequently converted to Christianity,
it was only after a re examination and a thorough and
exhaustive investigation of its claims. This his
friends positively state never took place, and the
circumstances associated with each and every period
assigned for his reputed conversion confirm their
statements. In 1848 he was a member of Congress,
his mind absorbed with the novelties, the duties, and
the aspirations that usually attend a first term in
this important capacity. In 1858, and for years pre-
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 321
ceding and following, the great political questions of
the day occupied his mind. He was engaged in a
mortal struggle with one of the most powerful intel-
lectual athletes of his time. He was contending with
Douglas for a prize, and that prize was the Presi-
dency. He must be ever on the alert. He must
crush his antagonist or his antagonist would crush
him. Think of Lincoln sitting down in the very
crisis of this conflict and engaging in the study of
theology ! In 1862, and 1863, the other years as-
signed for his conversion, he was in the midst of the
great Rebellion, all his thoughts and all his energies
enlisted in the mighty task of saving the Union.
That Lincoln was a Freethinker in Illinois, that
he was for a time a zealous propagandist of his faith,
that he was instrumental in making unbelievers of
many of his associates, it is useless to deny. If he
was afterward converted to Christianity, his friends
were ignorant of his conversion. He failed to notify
them of his previous mistake and warn them of their
impending danger. If it could be shown that he re-
nounced his former views and became a Christian,
this fact would be one of the most damaging argu-
ments against Christianity that could be advanced.
As a Freethinker he was one of the most tender and
humane of men, ever solicitous for the welfare of his
fellow-beings. Did Christianity transform him into
a selfish, heartless being, who coolly disregarded
322 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
even the eternal welfare of his best and dearest
friends ? Think of a man directing a friend to take
a road which he afterward discovers leads to certain
death, and then not lifting a finger of warning to save
him from destruction, when it is in his power to do
The Freethinker will require no other evidence to
convince him that Lincoln died a disbeliever than
the fact that he once fully investigated this subject
and proclaimed himself an Infidel. The mere skep-
tic who has no settled convictions who has never
examined the evidences against historical Christian-
ity may become a sincere believer in the Christian
religion. The confirmed Freethinker never can,
albeit a Thomas Cooper, a Joseph Barker and a
George Chainey may profess to. As Col. Thomas
Wentworth Higginson happily expresses it : " You
may take the robin's egg from the nest in yonder
tree, and so near is the bird to being hatched you
may crack it with the edge of your nail, and the bird
is free. But all your power, and all your patient
fidelity, and all the mucilage and sticking plaster you
can put on it, will never get that birdling back into
that little egg again. So complete is the sense of
satisfaction, such is the feeling of freedom, which
comes from once finding yourself, not merely out of
these little sectarian names, but out of the name of
the larger and grander sect, which is Christianity,
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 323
that you will find when the egg is once broken, the
bird is free forever."
From the church steward's standpoint, there is
nothing so desirable as the early conversion of one
who is destined to become rich. From the evangel-
ist's point of view, there is nothing like the death-
bed repentance of one who has become great. Had
the bullet of the assassin not immediately destroyed
consciousness, all these stories that we have heard
about Lincoln's conversion the Edwards story, the
Smith story, the Brooks story, the Willets story, the
Vinton story, and the story of the Illinois clergyman
would never have been invented. Instead of these
we would have the story of some domestic, or some
intruding priest who saw him during his dying
hours. Aaron Burr was kinder to the church than
John Wilkes Booth.
But whatever the religious opinions of Lincoln
were when he died, whether he had changed his be-
lief or not, in view of the fact that he never thought
enough of the church to unite with it, the frantic
efforts of clergymen and church-members to claim
him seem quite uncalled for, if not ridiculous.
The opinion of a writer previously quoted in this
work, is that the bitter war waged against the per-
sons who have declared that Lincoln was not a
Christian arises, not from a belief that they have
stated what is false, but from a consciousness that
324 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
the}' have " demolished an empty shrine that was
profitable to many, and broken a painted idol that
might have served for a god." It is strange how
Christians tend toward fetichism. Not satisfied with
three Gods, they must canonize and deify men and
make saints and de mi-gods. They have already
deified three Americans Washington, Grant, and
Lincoln and what is remarkable, in each instance
they have selected an unbeliever an Infidel. It is
said that men have stolen the livery of heaven in
which to serve the devil ; but it seems hardly con-
sistent with the pretensions of the church that she
should be compelled to appropriate the beadroll of
Infidelity in order to make her appear respectable.
Lincoln's speeches and state papers contain many
allusions to Deity. As Colonel Lamon observes,
" These were easy, and not inconsistent with his re-
ligious notions." But it is a mistake to attribute all
the Deistic expressions that appear in his state
papers to him. Just how much of this was the work
of his private secretaries, how much of it was
" Seward's nonsense," or how much of it was
suggested by Chase and other Cabinet ministers, can
never be determined. It is significant, however,
that in those documents of least importance, those
which he would most likely leave to his secretaries
or other officials to draft, these expressions are
chiefly to be found. In his debates with Douglas,
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 326
and his other great political speeches delivered in
Illinois, he seldom refers to Deity. In his carefully
prepared Cooper Institute address, that model of
political addresses, the name of Deity does not once
occur. In his First Inaugural Address, he refers to
God, and makes a complimentary reference to Chris-
tianity intended to conciliate the church and gain for *
his administration its support in the coming struggle
with the South. One paragraph of the second In-
augural contains allusions to Deity and quotations
from the Bible ; but in this address he makes no
recognition of Christ or Christianity. Even his
quotations from the Bible are made in a guarded
manner which clearly indicates that he did not be-
lieve in its divinity. In the Preliminary Proclama-
tion of Emancipation, which was drafted by himself,
the name of Deity does not appear. In the final
Proclamation, an acknowledgment of God was in-
serted only at the urgent request of Secretary Chase.
The Emancipation Proclamation, with the possible
exception of the Declaration of Independence and
the Constitution of the United States, is the most
important political document ever issued in
America. He knew that this was the crowning act
of his career, that it would place him among the im-
mortals. In the preparation of this work he ex-
panded much thought and labor, and it was his desire
that it should be free from religious verbiage. In
326 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
that masterpiece of eloquence, the Gettysburg
oration, the name of God occurs but once, while not
the remotest reference to Christianity or even im-
mortality appears. When we take into consideration
the fact that this address was made at the dedication
of a cemetery, the significance of this omission can
not be overlooked. This speech was the product of
Lincoln's own mind free from the suggestions and
emendations of others, and the occasion was too
sacred to indulge in pious cant in which he did not
The clergy parade Lincoln's recognitions of a
Supreme Being as a triumphant refutation of the
claim that he was an Infidel. Yet, at the same time,
they do not hesitate to denounce as Infidels, Paine
and Yoltaire, when they know, or ought to know,
that two more profound and reverential believers in
God never lived and wrote than Paine and Voltaire.
If Infidelity and Atheism were synonymous terms
it would be difficult to maintain that Lincoln, dur-
ing the last years of his life at least, was an Infidel.
But Infidelity and Atheism are not synonymous
terms. An Atheist is an Infidel, but an Infidel is
not necessarily an Atheist. A Presbyterian is a
Christian, but all Christians are not Presbyterians.
Christians themselves coined the word Infidel, and
they have used it to denote a disbeliever in Chris-
tianity. A disbelief or denial of Christianity is not
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 327
necessarily a denial of God. Christians, many of
them, regard the term as odious and as carrying
with it the idea of immorality, notwithstanding the
most intelligent and the most highly moral class in
Christendom are these so-called Infidels. "Who are
to-day's Infidels ?" says the Rev. William Charming
Gannett. He answers : " Very many of the bright-
est minds, the warmest hearts, the most loyal con-
sciences, the most zealous seekers after God, the
most honest tellers of what they find yes, and the
most successful finders. Infidels to what are they?
Not to morality : Infidels to morality are too wise to
train with them."
It is not claimed that Lincoln was wholly free
from a belief in the supernatural. He possessed in
some respects a simple, childlike nature, and carried
with him through life some of the superstitions of
childhood. But the dogmas of Christianity were
not among them ; these he had examined and dis-
As a proof of Lincoln's regard for Christian insti-
tutions, great prominence is given to his proclama-
tion to the army enjoining the observance of the
Sabbath. This document gives expression to senti-
ments regarding the sanctity of the Christian Sab-
bath that Lincoln personally did not entertain. It
was issued to appease the clamor of the clergy who
demanded it, and was drafted, not by Lincoln, but
328 ABRAHAM LINCOLN :
by some pious Sabbatarian. Lincoln himself at-
tached no more sanctity to Sunday than to other
days. He worked on Sunday himself. In Spring-
field his Sundays were frequently spent in preparing
cases for court. In company with his boys he often
passed the entire day making excursions into the
country or rambling through the woods that skirted
the Sangamon. He seldom went to church either
in Springfield or Washington, the claims of some of
his Christian biographers to the contrary notwith-
standing. Previous to his nomination, in 1860, we
find him sitting for a bust on Sunday in preference
to attending church. On the Sunday immediately
following his nomination an artist was busy with him
molding his hands and taking negatives for a statue.
The draft of the preliminary Proclamation of
Emancipation was finished on Sunday. The last
Sunday of his life was spent, not in studying the
Scriptures, but in reading his beloved Shakespere.
It was stated by friends of Lincoln that he gener-
ally refrained from giving publicity to his religious
opinions while in public life because of their unpop-
ularity. In answer to this the Christian claimant
retorts : " If this be true then he was a hypocrite."
But let us be honest. Nearly every person enter-
tains opinions which he does not deem it discreet or
necessary to make public. You, my Christian friend,
entertain doubts and heresies concerning your creed
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 329
which you keep a secret or disclose only to your
most intimate associates. If you, in private life, and
not dependent upon the public, hide your unpopular
thoughts from the world, can you consistently blame
Lincoln for his silence when the fate of a nation
depended upon him and the alienation even of a few
bigots might turn the scales against him ? A Chris-
tian general does not hesitate to deceive the enemy
or withhold his plans even from his own soldiers.
Again, the clergy are forever advising and entreating
men not to publish their doubts and heresies. Is it
consistent in them to condemn a man for following
their advice ?
The church should learn to respect honesty her-
self before she charges others with dishonesty. It
is the shame of Christianity that men have been
obliged to conceal their honest convictions in order
to escape ostracism and persecution. When the
church herself becomes honest enough to tolerate
and respect the honest opinions of those who cannot
conscientiously accept her creed, then will it be time
for her to charge Lincoln with hypocrisy for having
partially withheld his unpopular views from religious
ruffians. It does not evince a want of honesty, nor
even a lack of moral courage, to flee from a tiger or
avoid a skunk.
To do good was Lincoln's religion. To live an
honest, manly life to add to the sum of human
330 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
happiness to make the world better for his having
lived this was the aspiration of his life and the
essence of his faith.
In youth, the meanest creature found in him a
friend, and if need be, a defender. He wrote essays
and made speeches against cruelty to animals, and
sought to impress upon his playmates' minds the
sacredness of life. The same tender regard for the
weak and unfortunate characterized his manhood.
Whilst riding through a forest once with a party of
friends, he saw a brood of young birds on the ground
which a storm had blown from their nest. He dis-
mounted from his horse, and after a laborious
search, found the nest and placed the birdlings
snugly in their little home. When he reached his
companions, and was chided by them for his delay,
he said : " I could not have slept to-night if I had
not given those birds to their mother."
The narration of his many deeds of kindness and
mercy while at Washington would fill a volume. He
loved to rescue an erring soldier boy from the jaws
of death and fill a mother's eyes with tears of joy.
He loved to dispel the clouds of sorrow from a wife's
sad heart and warm it with the sunshine of happi-
ness. He loved to take the child of poverty upon
his knee and plant within its little breast the seeds
of confidence and hope.
A giant in stature, and a lion in strength and
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 331
courage, he possessed the gentleness of a child and
the tenderness of a woman. The sufferings, even of
a stranger, would fill his eyes with tears, and the
death of a friend would overwhelm him. In his
tenth year his mother died, and for a time his heart
was desolate and he could not be consoled. In his
fifteenth year his only sister, a lovely, fragile flower,
just blooming into womanhood, drooped and died,
and life seemed purposeless to him again. Of his
four children, two died while he was living Eddie,
a fair-haired babe, and his beloved Willie. When
death took these his sorrow was unutterable. The
untimely death of his young friend, the gallant Colo-
nel Ellsworth, at Alexandria, and the death of his
life-long friend, the lamented Edwin F. Baker, at
Ball's Bluff, were blows that staggered him. At the
death of his good friend, Bowlin Green, he was
chosen to deliver a funeral address. When the hour
arrived, and he stepped forward to perform the
sacred task, his eyes fell upon the coffin of his dead
friend and for a time he stood transfixed helpless
and speechless. The only tribute he could pay was
the tribute of his tears. When he turned for the
last time from the bedside of the beautiful Ann But-
ledge, his betrothed, it was with a broken heart and ,
a mind dethroned. " Oh ! I can never be reconciled
to have the snow, the rain, and the storm beat upon
her grave," was the pitiful burden of his plaint for
332 ABRAHAM LINCOLN I
weeks. Reason after a time returned, but his wonted
gladness never ; and down through all those event-
ful years to that fatal April night when his own
sweet life-blood slowly oozed away, beneath that
sparkling surface of feigned mirth, drifted the mem-
ory and the agonies of that great grief.
In the social relations of life, he was a most exem-
plary man. He was a devoted husband, an indulgent
father, an obliging neighbor, and a faithful friend.
Mrs. Colonel Chapman, a lady who lived for a time
in his family, pays this tribute to his private life :
" He was all that a husband, father, and neighbor
should be, kind and affectionate to his wife and child,
and very pleasant to all around him. Never did I
hear him utter an unkind word." " His devotion to
wife and children," says George W. Julian, " was as
abiding and unbounded as his love of country."
The strong attachment always manifested by him
for his friends has often been remarked. liich and
poor, great and humble, all were equally dear to him
and alike the recipients of his regard and love. The
prince he treated like a man, the humblest man he
treated like a prince. Nothing in his career exhibits
the greatness and nobleness of his character in a
loftier degree than the cordial and unaffected manner
in which, at Washington, in the midst of wealth, and
splendor, and refinement, he was accustomed to
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN? 333
receive and entertain the plain, uncultured friends of
Upon his rugged honesty, I need not dwell. The
sobriquet of " Honest Abe ' was early won by him
and never lost. In his profession a profession in
which, too often, cunning and deceit, falsehood and
dishonesty, are the means, and robbery the end a
profession in which, too often, Injustice is a purpled
Dives sitting at a bounteous board, and Justice, a
ragged Lazarus lying at the gate he never wavered
in his loyalty to truth, to justice, and to honesty.
Engaged in a just cause, he was one of the most
powerful advocates that ever addressed a judge or
jury ; engaged in an unjust cause, he was the weakest
member of his bar. In fact, he could not be in-
duced to plead a cause in which he did not see some
element of justice, even though the technicalities of
law insured success. To one who had sought his
services and had stated his case, he replied : " Yes,
I can win it ; but there are some things legally right
that are not morally right; this is one: I cannot
take your case." He was once employed to defend
a person accused of murder. As the trial pro-
gressed, it became apparent to him that his client
had done the deed. Turning to his associate
counsel, with a look of disappointment and pain, he
said : " Swett, the man is guilty ; you defend him ; I
cannot." On another occasion, when he discovered
334 ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
that his client had grossly imposed upqn his con-
fidence and instituted an unjust suit, he left the
court-room, and when the bailiff called for him, he
answered : " Tell Judge Treat that I can't come ; /
have to wash my hands"
He was the most magnanimous of men. William
H. Seward, his chief opponent for the Presidential
nomination, he made the Premier of his Cabinet.
Secretary Chase became his political, if not his per-
sonal, enemy. Yet, recognizing his fitness for the
place, he waived all personal grievances and ap-
pointed him to the exalted position of Chief Justice
of the United States, the highest gift within the
power of a President to bestow. During his profes-
sional career he was sent to Cincinnati to assist
Edwin M. Stanton in an important legal case. The
grim Stanton had never met this plain, Western
lawyer before, and displeased at his uncouth appear-
ance, and apparent lack of ability, treated him so
discourteously that Lincoln's self-respect compelled
him to practically withdraw from the case. It was
a brutal affront, too poignant for him ever to forget,
but not to forgive, and linked together on one of the
most momentous pages of history stand the names
of Lincoln and Stanton, an enduring witness to his
The murder of this loving savior of our Union was
a disastrous blow, not to the victorious North alone,
WAS HE A CHRISTIAN?
but to the vanquished South as well. Could he have
lived, the balm of his great, kindly nature would have
quickly healed the nation's wounds. At the com-
mencement of the conflict, in pleading tones, he said :
"We are not enemies, but friends. 5 ' And at its
close, notwithstanding all the cruel, bitter anguish
he had endured during those four long years of
fratricidal strife, " With malice toward none, with
charity for all," he died, and many a brave Confed-
The deep damnation of his taking off.
When Stonewall Jackson died, he paid a touching
tribute to his gallantry, and said : " Let us forget
his errors over his fresh-made grave." in the dark-
ness of night, on a bloody field of the Peninsula, he
bent beside the prostrate form of a dying soldier of
the South, and while the hot tears rolled down his
furrowed cheeks, soothed him with words of tender-
est sympathy, and, by the dim rays of a lantern, took
down from his lips a message to his mother, and
sent it by a flag of truce into the enemies' lines to be
transmitted to his home.
Glorious apostle of humanity ! When shall we
look upon his like again ? so honest, so truthful, so
just, so charitable, so loving, so merciful ! Law
was his God, justice his creed, and liberty his
heaven. If he sinned, mercy prompted him. In
the presence of such a man, and in the presence of
such a religion, how contemptible your puny theo-
logians and their narrow creeds appear ! Born
in the cabin of a Western wild, dying in a na-
tion's capital, its honored chief, enshrined in the
hearts of an admiring world, Abraham Lincoln stands
to-day the gentlest, purest, noblest character in hu-
man history. Millenniums may pass away, unnum-
bered generations come and go, creeds rise and
fall ; but the divine faith of Freedom's martyr a
faith based upon immutable law, eternal justice, uni-
versal liberty a faith formulated not in perishable
words, but in immortal deeds, will live through all
the years to come, a torch of hope to every son of
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What They Say About the Picture Book.
The Freethinkers' Magazine.
A most extraordinary publication. We venture the assertion that nothi
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The Boston Investigator.
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2 represent Samples of christlanit
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From the Denison Gazetteer t Texas.
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. . "
MEN, WOMEN, AND GODS,
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" Men* Women and Gods, and Other Lectures," by Helen H. Gardener, is a
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morals of civilization morals in general, indeed we not at all based in or
dependent upon religiom, certainly not on Christianity) rinoe the *r -called
** golden rule," the highest principle of morality} antedates
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R. G. Ingersoll, R. C. Adams and 18 other prominent Freethinkers, 35
Frothingham's Safest Creed. Discourses of Reason x.oo
Froude s Science and Theology : Ancient and Modern 35
Gardener's (Helen) Men, Women and Gods, etc. Introduction by
Ingersoll. With Portrait. Paper, soc. ; cloth x.oo
Godly Women of the Bible. By an Ungodly Woman. Pap., soc.; clo., 75
Greeks Creed of Christendom. Foundation, Superstructure 1.50
Groh's Did Man Fall ? Location of Garden of Eden 10
Is the God of Israel the True God ? 35
Grote's Bible Narrative of Creation 50
Guild's Pro and Con of Religion. Paper, 2oc. ; cloth 30
Harrison's Religions of Inhumanity and Humanity 15
Hart's Candle from Under the Bushel. 1,306 Questions 50
Hogan's Auricular Confession, and Nunneries. Paper, 500. ; cloth 75
Mother of Harlots : Popery Dissected. Paper, 500.; cloth 75
Holland's Reign of the Stoics : History, Philosophy, Maxims, etc 1.35
Holy Bible Abridged. Unfit for family reading. Paper, 300. ; cloth... 50
Hull's (D. W. ) Hereafter : Attempted proof of. Paper 50
New Dispensation. The Heavenly Kingdom 15
Hull's (M. ) Biblical and Modern Spiritualism. Paper 60
Contrast : Evangelicalism and Spiritualism Compared. Pnp.,6oc.; clo., i.oa
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Hume's Essays on Miracles xo
Huxley on Evolution Theory xo
Ingalls' Social Wealth. Acquirement and Apportionment i .oc
Econo inic Equities. Industrial Production and Exchange 25
Ingersoll on Bible Idolatry ; per doz 30
On Blasphemy. Defense ofC. B. Reynolds. Paper, ssc. ; cloth... 50
Catechised. Answer to Questions by San Franciscan ; per doz. ... 30
Lay Sermon on Labor Question, 50.; per doz 50
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Paine Vindicated. With Burr's Roman Catholic Canard 15
Speech to Jury in Suit of B. & M. Tel. Co. vs. W. U. Tel. Co xo
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Institution of Marriage. Remarkable Divorce Cases, 446pp x.oo
I acobson's Bible Inquirer. 1 48 Contradictions 35
Kelsp's Bible Analyzed. " Sledge Hammer Logic." 8vo, &33pp 3.00
Spiritualism Sustained, $i .00. Universe Analyzed. i.oo
Kingsley's Truth. A Poem xo
Legend oi Gautama Buddha, the Sakya Prince, 50. ; per doz 50
Longshore on Father, Son and Holy Ghost, 50 . ; per doz 50
On Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.; per doz 30
Love Ventures of Tom, Dick and Harry. 16 illus. Paper, ssc.; bds., 30
Macdonald's (Frederika) Nathaniel Vaughan. Free thought, Labor Novel i.oo
Macdonald's New England and its People * 10
Maria Monk. Monks and their Maidens. Paper, 500.;- cloth 75
Marvin's Epidemic Delusions xo
Philosophy of Spiritualism. Treatment of M ediomania 50
McDonnell's Heathens of the Heath, soopp., paper, Soc. ; cloth 1.2$
McLaren's Christianity from a Scientific Standpoint.
TRUTH SEEKER COMPANY'S PUBLICATIONS.
Meslier's Last Will and Testament. Abstract 25
Modern Thinkar : Advanced Thought on Sociology and Religion. Pap. 50
Mottoes for Freethinkers. Eight Illuminated Sentiments Better than
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Muller's (Max) Buddhist Nihilism 10
Newman on Religion Not History 25
Nine Demands of Liberalism. Appropriate Sentiments and Fine
Portraits- of Jefferson, Washington, Paine, Girard, Franklin, Inger-
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O'Donoghue's Theology and Mythology x.oo
Oppenheim's Personal Immortality, etc 75
Order of Creation. Genesis and Geology. Controversy between
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Oswald's Bible of Nature. Secularism, the Religion of the Future.... i.oo
Secret of the East. Origin of Christian Religion i.oo
Paine's Age of Reason. Paper, 250.; cloth 50
Age of Reason and Examination of Prophecies. Paper, 400. ; cloth, 75
Common Sense. Written in 1776 15
Crisis. Written during American Revolution. Paper, 400. ; cloth, 75
Great Works. 8vo, Soopp. , cloth 3.00
Life of. (Blanchard s. ) Paper, 400 . ; cloth, with portrait 60
Political Works. Crisis, Rights of Man, etc 1.50
Rights of Man. Defense of French Revolution. Paper, 4oc.; cloth, 75
Theological Works. Age of Reason, Life, etc. Steel Portrait 1.50
Vindication of. By Ingersoll. Canard on Paine's Death 15
Peck's (John) Christian Absurdities, aoc.; Miracle and Miracle Workers 10
Peck's O. os - ) Problems, with Theological Amendments t Constitution, 25
Pellegrini's Mortality of the Soul 15
Popes and Their Doings. Vicegerents of God. Paper, soc.; cloth. . . 75
Positivist Calendar (Auguste Comte's System). Cards, 11x14 35
Poverty : Its Cause and Cure. M. G. H 10
Priest in Absolution. Criticism of the Confessional 25
Pringle's Ingersoll in Canada. Reply to Archbishop Lynch 10
Reply to Saturday Sermons in Toronto Mail. 10
Proctors Six Lectures on Astronomy 15
Public School Question. Catholic and Liberal Views 20
Putnam's Adami and Heva. New Version 10
Gottlieb : His Life. Freethought Romance 25
Ingersoll and Jesus : A Poem, xo. New God 10
Waifs and Wanderings. Liberal Novel. Paper, soc.; cloth i.oo
Why Don't He Lend a Hand ? and Other Agnostic Poems 10
Randolph-Swedenborg- Hut chin son's Beyond the Veil I.oo
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Reade's Martyrdom of Man. Compendium of Universal History 1.75
Outcast. Freethought Romance 30
Reber's Christ of Paul. Enigmas of Christianity. 4oopp a.oo
Therapeutae and Essenes. Christian Doctrines and Scriptures i.oo
Remsburg's Bible Morals : Crimes and Vices Sanctioned 3$
False Claims of the Church, joe. Sabbath Breaking a$
Image Breaker : Six Lectures. Decline of Faith, Protestant Intoler-
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Reynolds on Blasphemy and the Bible 5
Rinehart's Intellectual Development 25
Root's Sakya Buddha : Life and Teachings x.oo
Schott's (Mme.) Health Hints to Women and Others 1.50
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St. Matthew Arraigned for Forgery it
Sepher Toldoth Jeshu. From Hebrew Story of Jesus 15
Bible What Is Jt ?..,,, aj
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Shaw's Divinity of Christ, ioc. On Liberalism, 50. Studies in Theology, xo
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Bister Lucy and Her Awful Disclosures. Convent Life ID
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John's Way. Radical Domestic Story 15
Little Lessons for Little Folks. Boards 40
Smith on Personal Existence After Death Improbable 10
Socialism. Reply to Dr. Hitchcock. Paper ,... 25
Sotheran's Shelley, Philosopher and Reformer. 8vo, pup., 500.; clo., 75
Spencer on Struggles for Liberty 75
Stephenson's " Our Father in Heaven." Per ico 50
Steven's Concise Account of Christian and Oriental Religions 1.50
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Strauss' Old Faith and the New 1.50
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Truth Seeker. Illustrated Freethought Weekly. Leading Freethought
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Truth Seeker Annual and Freethinkers' Almanac for '84, '85, '86, '8q,
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Truth Seeker Collection of Forms, Hymns, etc. For Marriages,
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Truth Seeker Tracts. 3 vols., i,575pp. ea.; pap., 6oc.; clo x.oo
Try Square : Practical Religion. Guide to Liberal Organization. x.oo
Tuttle s Career of Religious Ideas. Paper, soc. ; cloth 75
Tyndall's Advancement of Science, "Prayer," etc. Paper, asc.; cloth, 50
Address and Portrait only xo
Underwood on Christianity and Materialism 15
Crimes and Cruelties of Christianity xo
Debate with Burgess on Christianity. Paper, 500. ; cloth 75
Debate with Rev. Marples on God and Bible. Paper, 350.; cloth. . . 60
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Influence of -Christianity on Civilization 25
Kind of a Man Clark Braden Is, xoc. Materialism and Crime. 5
Paine : Political and Religious Reformer xo
Scientific Materialism. Meaning and Tendency xo
Spiritualism from a Materialistic View xo
Twelve Scientific and Theological Tracts 10
What Liberalism Offers for Christianity xo
Will Coming Man Worship God ? xo
Woman : Past, Present, Rights and Wrongs xo
Voltaire in Exile. Memoir by B. Gastineau. And Unpublished Cor-
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Voltaire's Pocket Theology. Witty and Sarcastic. ..., 25
Walker's Bible Temperance. Drinking Defended and Enjoined by L.ulc, 10
Washburn's Religious Problems, xpc. Was Jesus Insane Y xo
Waters' Rome or Reason. Christian and Extra-Christian Experience, x.$o
Whit for d 's Bible Fabrications Refuted 15
Christianity a Reward for Crime, xoc. Origin of Christian L._!e 25
Masonic Vindication : Protest Against Persecution 15
Widdecombe on Conflict Between Science and Religion xo
Wixon's (Miss S. H.) Story Hour. For Children and Youth. Without
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'Vooley's Hebrew Mythology. Rationale of Bible. Natural Pheno-
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